“Notes of a Native Son” by James Baldwin was published in the November 1955 issue of Harper’s magazine under the title “Me and My House,” but these two versions are not exactly the same. “Notes” is a dually focused essay, focusing on Baldwin’s relationship with his father, and focusing on Baldwin’s relationship with white America as well. This essay, in its pure form would appeal to anti-segregationists, but would infuriate many white Americans. In order for this essay to appeal to Harper’s Magazine’s primary audience, white upper class Americans, the focus of Baldwin’s relationship with white America was repressed, bringing out only the focus of Baldwin’s relationship with his father.
Thumbing through Harper’s, it is clear that this is a magazine for upper class white Americans. Harper’s advertises vacations to foreign destinations, large sets of books, and color televisions. All of these costly items are consumed mostly by upper class Americans. There is even an essay entitled “If we’re so rich, what’s eating us?” that focuses on national economics, a topic that lower class people are generally not as concerned with. In the entire November issue, there is not a single picture of a black person, and Baldwin’s essay is the only essay that mentions race. In the January 1956 issue, there is an article that tells of how southerners support segregation, which is accompanied by the disclaimer, “The point of view expressed in this article is far removed from that of the Editors.”(Jan 39) Needless to say, there were many letters in response to this article in the following issues. Race is a topic that is very under-represented in Harper’s in relation to vacation packages.
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...of a Native Son” infer.
When Baldwin’s “Notes of a Native Son” was published in the November 1955 issue of Harper’s, the “Me and My House…” alterations reflect the audience of Harper’s. The magazine itself showed no evidence of appealing to the 1950’s African American; the advertisements present and the article topics were oriented for the typical middle to upper class white American. The deletion of much of Baldwin’s analysis of American interracial relations and the title change, indicate the mindset of the typical white American in the 1950s.
Baldwin, James. “Notes of a Native Son.” 1955. James Baldwin: Collected Essays. Ed.
Toni Morrison. New York: Library of America, 1998. 63-84
Baldwin, James “Me and My House.” Harper’s Nov. 1955: 54-61
Waring, Thomas R. “The Southern Case Against Desegregation.” Harper’s Jan. 1956: 39+
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