FORUM

  • Vivian Phillips

A COUP D'OEIL INSIDE CHEZ BALDWIN

“Once I found myself on the other side of the ocean, I could see where I came from very clear…You can never escape that. I am the grandson of a slave, and I am a writer. I must deal with both.” - James Baldwin


Thanks to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, their Chez Baldwin virtual exhibit allows a deeper glimpse into James Baldwin, the person. The exhibit is an exploration of Baldwin’s life and works through the lens of his house in St. Paul de Vence, France, where he spent the last sixteen years of his life and was an important social center for artists and intellectuals from around the world.


Image courtesy of Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of The Baldwin Family

The Chez Baldwin exhibit is presented in five parts:


Power of Place: St. Paul de Vence – How Baldwin changed the trajectory of his life by changing the place in which he lived.

Baldwin at a Glance – The will to transcend borders, maintain family ties, and cultivate friendships fueled Baldwin’s remarkable journey from Harlem to France.

Transatlantic Commuter – Although Europe is where Baldwin spent the bulk of his time, he always considered himself an American writer living as a “transatlantic commuter.”

Bearing Witness to the Movement – Explore how Baldwin used various platforms to become a powerful voice in the Civil Rights Movement.

An Author for the Ages – For Baldwin, a true writer defies ideological labels because demands of art involve searching for truth, shifting paradigms, and changing attitudes and beliefs.


The virtual exhibit also allows for the exploration of a few objects from Baldwin’s life in St. Paul de Vence. A series of five videos from public programs hosted by the museum is available for viewing, as well as a number of other resources to be experienced. The entire exhibit brings together various elements of Baldwin’s life for our consumption, enlightenment, and enjoyment. Nothing replaces an in-person visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, but this virtual gift on the life of James Baldwin is an offering to be appreciated. We invite you to take advantage of this unique opportunity to explore the special space of this important man and artist.


Thank you everyone at NMAAHC!


To support more amazing exhibits like Chez Baldwin, we highly encourage you to fill out this survey from the National Museum of African American History & Culture 👇🏿