James Baldwin Submitted photo

FARMINGTON — James Baldwin, American novelist, playwright and activist, is the next featured topic of the University of Maine at Farmington’s New Commons Project.

Baldwin was renowned as one of the country’s most vocal advocates for equality and one of the most important authors in the modern American canon. His 1963 nonfiction book, “The Fire Next Time,” was a national bestseller that galvanized the nation and gave passionate voice to the emerging Civil Rights movement.

Born in Harlem, New York, in 1924, to a life of poverty and persecution, Baldwin spent much of his early years in libraries where he developed a passion for writing. Throughout his writing career, he experimented with literary forms on topics exploring racial, sexual and class distinctions in Western Society. His passionate, intensely personal essays in the 1950s and ’60s made him an eloquent voice for the Civil Rights movement.

The events on James Baldwin are free and open to the public and will run from Nov. 21 to Dec. 5.

The New Commons Film Series presents “I Am Not Your Negro,” an Oscar-nominated 2016 documentary highlighting James Baldwin’s observations on American history and racism. The documentary explores Baldwin’s thoughts on and relationships with civil rights leaders of the 1960s such as Malcom X, Martin Luther King Jr. and Medgar Evers. It will be presented from 7:30-9:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 21, at the Lincoln Auditorium, Roberts Learning Center.

A James Baldwin symposium will be held with Guy Mark Foster, Baldwin scholar and associate professor of English at Bowdoin College; Stefania Heim, poet, scholar, translator, editor and educator; Ian Davis, scholar of transnational modernisms, race, gender and sexuality and Julian Randall, author of “Refuse.” Taking place from 9:45 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. Friday, Nov. 22, at the Emery Community Arts Center.

There will be a poetry reading with award-winning authors Stefania Heim, poet, scholar, translator, editor and educator; Julian Randall, author of “Refuse” that won the 2017 Cave Canem Poetry Prize; and Kristen Case, associate professor of English at UMF, taking place from 7:30-9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 22, at Twice Sold Tales, 155 Main St.

The keynote event, “The Cultural Import of James Baldwin and The Tradition,” with scholar and poet Jericho Brown, associate professor and the director of the creative writing program at Emory University, will take place from 7:30-9:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 5, at the Emery Community Arts Center. Brown will discuss his work, as well as James Baldwin’s writing within a linage of creative African American cultural criticism.

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