The passing of Baldwin is a major loss to the world at large. His keen insight regarding the plight of black Americans and his prophetic vision concerning the future of white Americans will endure as imperishable monuments of this troubled age.
I, as so many of my generation, discovered Baldwin while a college student. As we saw it, his flawless prose, both fiction and nonfiction, was unmatched by any other writer, black or white. He wrote from the bowels of the black experience; he was uncompromising and he never forgot his roots, even though well-traveled and the consummate expatriate.
While Baldwin will always be viewed as a black writer, his message was generally delivered to white people about white civilization. He, just as countless other blacks before him, appealed to the collective white conscience for the cessation of black oppression. Baldwin went further, warning whites against colonial exploitation and the general arrogance of power.
In his last years, Baldwin grew bitter, feeling that his long-standing message had fallen on deaf ears. What an irony, then, that at this crucial moment in history, the tide may be turning. Faced with a falling dollar, declining global prestige, an erosion of moral fiber and the rise of Asian competition, white America, once impervious to the counsel of the great prophet, may now grudgingly hearken to his appeal.
LEGRAND H. CLEGG II