37 pages 1 hour read

James Baldwin

The Amen Corner

Fiction | Play | Adult | Published in 1954

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Authorial Context: James Baldwin

James Baldwin was a prolific Black author, whose vast body of literary work made great impacts on the civil rights and LGBTQ+ rights movements. He was born James Arthur Jones to a single mother, Emma Berdis Jones, in Harlem in 1924. In 1927, Emma married a preacher from Louisiana who had moved North, David Baldwin (from whom James took his last name). James and David had a complex relationship, and the two fought frequently. David saw James’s habits of reading books, seeing movies, and having white friends as potential threats to his faith. This is mirrored in the relationship between David and Margaret in The Amen Corner.

In high school, Baldwin struggled when he began to realize that he was attracted to men. He sought religion as an escape, joining the Mount Calvary of the Pentecostal Faith Church and then following a preacher to Fireside Pentecostal Assembly. The preacher, Bishop Rose Artemis Horn (nicknamed “Mother Horn”) loosely inspired the character of Margaret in The Amen Corner. At Fireside Pentecostal Assembly, James himself took to the pulpit and discovered his gifts for moving a crowd with his words. However, he came to realize that his reasons for joining the church were to hide from his true self.