In his long, illustrious career, James Baldwin never wrote a full book on Africa. The figure of Africa, nonetheless, was a recurring one in his corpus—a figure that would change significantly over the course of his writing. While Baldwin’s early representations of Africa follow the Western conceit of Africa as primitive, his 1960s and early ’70s writings chart a new direction, showing the linked struggle between African independence and the civil rights and Black Power movements in the United States. Again, we see another figure of the continent emerging in Baldwin’s late works: an Africa that exists on its own terms, beyond European mediation and beyond the purview of the white or black Western gaze.

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