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In progress at the University of Michigan and the National Museum of African American History and Culture, this digital humanities project proposes a virtual writer's house-museum for James Baldwin (1924–1987)—a civil rights movement activist, a black queer intellectual who lived overseas and one of the most important twentieth-century American writers. "Archiving James Baldwin's House" focuses on documenting and making accessible to students, researchers, and fans "Chez Baldwin," the residence where he spent his last sixteen years and where he created his most enduring household. It argues that the remnants of lives we study often lead us outside our comfort zones and become sources of unexpected narrative and visual information; both material and digital, they become personal and physical presences in our lives, extensions of ourselves. Along with the house, "Archiving" showcases artifacts abandoned as debris and refuse that were central to Baldwin's daily life: his voluminous library, foreign editions of his works, research files, phone logs, photographs, journals and magazines, vinyl records, art pieces and posters, even one of his typewriters. These objects—the only surviving archive of Baldwin's life matter—demand preservation as evidence of his black queer dwelling practices that inflected his later works and his vision of late twentieth-century US national identity.

The resources available to us for benign access to each other … are few but powerful: language, image, and experience. … These two godlings, language and image, feed and form experience … [and] help us to pursue the human project—which is to remain human and to block dehumanization of others. … There are no strangers. There are only versions of ourselves, many of which we have not embraced, most of which we wish to protect ourselves from. For the stranger is not foreign, she is random; not alien but remembered; and it is the randomness of the encounter with our already known—although unacknowledged—selves that summons a ripple of alarm. (emphases added)

—Toni Morrison, "The Fisherwoman,"
foreword to Robert Bergman's A Kind of Rapture (1998)
Figure 1. Chez Baldwin, St. Paul-de-Vence, France. Photograph by author, 2014.
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Figure 1.

Chez Baldwin, St. Paul-de-Vence, France. Photograph by author, 2014.

[End Page 505]

Toni Morrison's words above link "language and image," the two "godlings" that "feed and form experience," as the foundational forces and tools shaping how those of us endowed with sight and hearing approach identity, how we see and describe ourselves and others as human beings. Historically key to ideological underpinnings, mechanisms, and processes of creation, and the representation and dissemination of reductively raced identities, language and image have been deployed to justify slave trades and to implement genocide and imperial and colonial rule all over the world. Yet, as tools of resistance to the intersecting systems of oppression, discrimination, and erasure, the powers of discourse and of the visual realm also make possible the hope and agency at the center of Morrison's "human project," or help us to learn how "to remain human and to block dehumanization of others." Echoing the brilliant rhetoric of James Baldwin's late essays, "Here Be Dragons" and "The Price of the Ticket" (1985), or "To Crush the Serpent" (1987), which deftly deconstruct American national identity's presumed "whiteness" as founded on the exploitation, sweat, and blood of "blackness," Morrison's godlings of language and image reverberate in the design of the project at the center of this essay. Tentatively titled "Archiving James Baldwin's House," the project plays at the borders of literature and architecture, material culture and its visual representations, thus bringing into a timely conversation African American and American studies with digital humanities.

Currently in the intermediate stages of archival research and digital production in collaboration with the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC/Smithsonian) in Washington, DC, "Archiving" will result in a virtual writer's house-museum on the museum's platform. Another version will appear on an Omeka domain at my academic institution.1 In both cases, this project's goal is to open the doors of Baldwin's house, life, and oeuvre to a wider public and to invite explorations of his revolutionary ideas on race, gender, sexuality, authorship, and national identity. Concerned with not only rigorous scholarship but also best uses of available computing tools, its design and style strive to make the project accessible to middle school and high school students as well as academic audiences. Located at the crossroads of African American studies and digital humanities, it explores how the remnants of lives we study should lead us outside our comfort zones by becoming sources of unexpected narrative and visual information. Both material and digital, such sources can become personal and physical presences in our lives, even extensions of ourselves.

Unlike American writers of national and international pantheons—Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Mark Twain—whose museums, papers, and [End Page 506] even ephemera are widely accessible, Baldwin (1924–1987) is harder to study and teach. Limited access to his archives and life story, the virtual absence of Baldwin-related authorial sites in the United States, and the nonexistence of such types of archival and simulated evidence as can be found in writers' house-museums make him virtually homeless in his own country. A unique figure in American literary, social, and cultural history—a black queer intellectual who lived internationally, and one of the key twentieth-century authors and activists—Baldwin is now experiencing a "renaissance" in both academe and popular culture. And yet his marvelous letters remain unpublished, as does his important last play, The Welcome Table (1987), on which he collaborated with the theater director Walter Dallas, and which was set in his house in St. Paul-de-Vence in Provence, known locally as "Chez Baldwin."

The recent acquisition of a large cache of his papers by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture changes this landscape dramatically for those who possess the credentials to access this rich collection, yet it does not make the writer's works and life any more accessible to the general public.2 The welcome resurgence of interest in Baldwin's life and ideas on race and national identity—from exciting new scholarship to public events such as the 2014 Live Arts festival "Live Ideas: James Baldwin, This Time!" in New York, to the enthusiasm about his works within #Black Lives Matter, to the popularity of Raoul Peck's 2016 art film I Am Not Your Negro, to circulation of YouTube videos of his interviews, activists' blog posts, even T-shirts—add to the timeliness of my project.3

Inspired by Baldwin's self-acknowledged importance of his French domestic abode to his underappreciated late works—No Name in the Street (1972), If Beale Street Could Talk (1974), The Devil Finds Work (1976), Just above My Head (1979), The Evidence of Things Not Seen (1985), and The Welcome Table—the present essay argues for creative preservation of the domestic practices of transnational black queer subjects like Baldwin. It is specifically concerned with digital documentation and implementation through computing technologies of how we deploy language and image, and, indeed, represent the enigma we term "human experience."4 Positioned between the realms of literary and material cultures, which I see as complementary, mutually interdependent, and densely interwoven rather than disconnected and competing, "Archiving" demonstrates the need to preserve both the intangible and the tangible traces of black lives by any means available.5 It also highlights how academic institutions, libraries, and museums—including those commemorating writers' domestic settings—approach concepts like archive, legacy, authenticity, and preservation. [End Page 507]

Figure 2. Chez Baldwin Archive: Baldwin's portrait and books in the storage area. Photograph by author, 2014.
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Figure 2.

Chez Baldwin Archive: Baldwin's portrait and books in the storage area. Photograph by author, 2014.

A digital companion to a book, "Archiving" focuses on documenting and making accessible to students, researchers, and fans Baldwin's last home residence, "Chez Baldwin," in St. Paul-de-Vence in southern France, where he spent the last sixteen years of his productive life, 1971–87, and where he created his most enduring household. As Miriam Posner and Kim Gallon argue, the field of digital humanities needs to pay closer attention to issues of race, gender, and sexuality, to which I add the practices of dwelling, which are always inflected by all these aspects of identity, and which in the case of subjects of color have been often excluded from the national record. A careful examination of Baldwin's dwelling practices, authorial art, and life story teaches much about how "the digital comes to bear on blackness and vice versa."6 Deploying metaphorical and literal approaches to social space, to raced, sexualized, and gendered identity, and to intersectional authorship in equal measure, "Archiving" engages with the tools and discourses of, and also challenges, the rapidly expanding field of digital humanities to make possible its visual and narrative designs, as well as its free-and-open access and dissemination.7

It explores as well the ways to bridge the binary, often ambivalent relationship between what we think of as more traditional American studies scholarship [End Page 508] concerned with race, ethnicity, and materiality and that on digital cultures, access to computing, and programming, as well as recovery, interpretation, and transformation of research matter, data, and metadata. It argues for what Tara McPherson identifies as the need for "multimodal" humanities scholars to "produce new relationships … to our objects of study, our methodologies, and our potential collaborators."8 Such innovative approaches are especially vital to scholarship in African American and black queer studies, in which documentation, interpretation, and preservation efforts have been hampered by the history of systematic erasure of black lives. They can help us elucidate, as well, the usually unspoken racialized hierarchies obtaining whenever we evaluate, archive, and display sources.9

The eclectic, unorthodox archive that has inspired this project challenges traditional research methods as it weaves in and out of Baldwin's writings, biographies, testimonies of friends and relatives, unpublished letters, interviews in various formats (including those posted on the internet), and whatever remains of his widely conceived, but still largely inaccessible, domestic legacy. Its visual side consists of photographs that I took of Chez Baldwin during my first visit there in 2000, as well as the painstaking documentation of leftover objects from that house, along with the empty structure, that I researched in 2014 and 2017. The house was let go by the Baldwin estate in the early 2000s, and partially demolished by developers in late 2014, with the wing containing Baldwin's study and living quarters bulldozed down to the dirt. Hence these leftover objects, books, posters, photographs, art pieces, furniture, and adornments remain the only material archive surviving after his death in 1987.

In the four sections that follow, I first sketch the design and conceptualization of "Archiving," and then, reflecting its tripartite structure, unpack its various visual and narrative components. The second section examines the rescued objects that have inspired "Archiving" and contextualizes the racialized underpinnings of institutions' views on writers' material possessions. The third one provides glimpses of Baldwin's life and writings about his house, thus showing the importance of interdisciplinary, dialogic, and digital approaches to studying domestic practices of nonnormative transnational subjects of color like Baldwin. The fourth looks at some of the research processes and methodologies that have inflected my conceptualization of a virtual writer's house-museum for Baldwin and that have made the labor leading to it a deeply personal journey. The legacy Baldwin created in his beloved house in St. Paul-de-Vence is a manifesto for the humanities today and a welcome challenge to American studies and digital humanities as contiguous yet conflicted fields. [End Page 509]

The Project

Methodologically, "Archiving" situates itself in between the imperatives of Baldwin's literary apparatus—biography, life writing, auto-ethnography, and genre experimentation—and the material and visual culture narratives arising from his home site that powerfully inflected his late authorship, and that I document and disseminate by means of digital technologies.10 While dependent on computing for its very existence, its overall design is literary, as it invites its audiences to follow the traces of Baldwin's writing life and his black queer domestic practices with three independent yet interwoven passages through the project. These three story lines interbraid a virtual tour of his last abode with two levels of deeper narrative commentary.11

First, combining digital pictorial and video-recorded documentation of the house, its interiors, and the grounds, the visual tour highlights architectural detail, the garden, and some salvaged objects, and frames Baldwin's transformation from a nomad—or "transatlantic commuter," as he called himself—into a home owner. This part of the project offers maps, blueprints, and photographs, along with some video footage, and employs 3-D modeling and printing to recover and display as accurately as possible the original structure once known as Chez Baldwin.12 The two narrative levels that accompany the house tour are accessible through several portals within that tour and provide deeper contextualization—historical, cultural, architectural, and methodological—and critical analyses of the site and the works that Baldwin composed there between 1971 and 1987.

The first level offers vignettes of literary and biographical commentary relating specific spaces and architectural elements of the house to Baldwin's works and biography, his letters, and his friendships, while also referencing his groundbreaking late essays in such popular publications as Architectural Digest and Playboy. The second narrative level, accessible via portals from within both the visual and the literary tours, offers a life writing–inflected account detailing the chronology, methods, processes, and approaches that I used in documenting and discovering the house's history via on-site and online research, interviews with the author's friends and family members, and correspondence with various people in his life. Reflecting on the complex processes of braiding traditional archival research methods of literary criticism with those of digital humanities, this part frames Baldwin's life writing and auto-ethnographic approaches to authorship as an imperative of sorts for his readers, scholars, and critics. Traditionally, we leave out the process of "getting there" for the all-important final argument or conclusion, treating that often long and unglamorous run-up [End Page 510] as unimportant, invisible, and better suppressed. Instead, we may want to see that process as integral and fundamental to how our work has evolved, how we have used various tools with varying degrees of success, even how certain missteps have paradoxically enabled the finished product.13

All three layers/levels of "Archiving" confirm that traditional archival practices now interact with the digital domain almost seamlessly and, as is the case with Baldwin, that certain subjects compel digital recovery and preservation given the absence of material sites and economic support for physical public venues such as a brick-and-mortar writer's house-museum. No matter how privileged Baldwin was in his later life as a best-selling African American author, this project is also an intervention into American practices of dissemination of the material remnants of lives that have not been preserved with as much care for "national heritage" as those of Ernest Hemingway or William Faulkner. It argues as well for the importance not only of race, gender, sexuality, and national identity to digital humanities scholarship but also that of affect, the terrain Raymond Williams has famously termed the "structures of feeling," and which Baldwin posed as the necessary vehicle for eradicating racism, homophobia, and misogyny.14 In focusing on the processes of researching, compiling, and conceptualizing the project, the second narrative level echoes the African American studies scholarship of Avery Gordon, Marisa Parham, and Shawn Michelle Smith, who argue for acknowledging scholars' presence and affective involvement in their work.15 In terms of theory and approach, this narrative level of the project takes for granted the feminist tenet that the personal is always political, and assumes the inherent intersectionality of identity; it explores the ways in which race, gender, sexuality, and economics inflect the material and metaphorical impact of language and image for multiply exiled artists like Baldwin.

Writers' houses generate what Diane Fuss terms "theater[s] of composition" filled with objects that Jane Bennett sees as endowed with affective "thingly power."16 Such an interdisciplinary framing will help my audience to apprehend the complex ways in which social space and architecture—and specifically domesticity and its representations—have been indelibly inflected by intersectional histories of race, gender, sexuality, and national identity inside and outside the United States. By creating a digital incarnation of Baldwin's house and filling it with stories about his life, works, and pioneering labor on conceptualizing identity, "Archiving" will thus guide high school, undergraduate, and graduate students toward digitally based humanities scholarship by elucidating how social space and literature exist in symbiotic, complex material and metaphorical relationships inside and outside books, buildings, and the bodies that create and inhabit them. [End Page 511]

One of the challenges of this project has to do with blending traditional archival methods with the new, increasingly complex, digital tools. By "traditional" I mean humanities research that we now take for granted, such as obtaining electronic records, or searching databases and collections available through our academic institutions and widely on the internet. The "new tools" require guidance from experts and practice to learn how to use new equipment, such as proper photographing of the objects from Baldwin's house and organizing and tagging the applied metadata using Adobe Lightroom. In all these efforts, I was inspired, once again, by Toni Morrison, whose essay "The Site of Memory" approaches writing fiction as "literary archeology," where recollection, imagination, and language create continuities in how we experience black lives past and present. I have also confirmed through my work process the importance of what I have been teaching my graduate students for decades: that one is compelled to constantly invent tools to accommodate the demands of one's ever-evolving archive as one goes along.17

In contrast to a creative literary archaeologist, or a fiction writer like Morrison, the literary critic or biographer she imagines is tasked with tracing the "events of fiction" to some "publically verifiable fact," excavating the "credibility of the sources of the imagination, not the nature of the imagination."18 Our technologically rich and racially tense moment, when videos of black and brown children, women, and men murdered by police go viral while their bodies are still warm, compels a revision of Morrison's approach. My project insists that black lives and their material traces, remnants, and digital reconstructions are central to rethinking narratives of American national identity, and, therefore, their rigorous documentation and study must take place before we can come to terms with who we are as a people. I also contest Morrison's exclusionary notions of literary critical versus artistic, or fictional, imagination; Baldwin's works show us that such dichotomous approaches to genre and authorship do not hold. The new National Museum of African American History and Culture, another profound inspiration, has structured its central narrative of passage through the permanent exhibit on a similarly blurred, nonbinary basis. By juxtaposing material artifacts with historical narratives, often pairing seemingly mundane objects with profound social and cultural contexts, NMAAHC tells multiple stories of suffering, resilience, survival, and creativity.

My dual task of constructing through computing, but also through designing a written and visual story of my visits to James Baldwin's house, is anchored in an assumption that literature and architecture can be seen as inseparable bedfel-lows.19 "Archiving" thus approaches Baldwin's house as a transnational black queer domestic space and archive and so falls both between and beyond the [End Page 512] two approaches Morrison has delineated. Although as a critic and biographer I appear to be merely a collector of "publically verifiable fact[s]," I insist on the right to claim access to "pictures" and "feelings" inspired by on-site research on Baldwin's house and close readings of his works, indeed, even by their digital transformation into images and texts that sometimes reveal more than we were capable of noticing in the moment, as is the case with a layered photo of one of the artifacts from the house that I describe in the last part of this essay.

Trinh T. Minh-ha reminds us that "writers of color … are condemned to write only autobiographical works. Living in a double exile—far from the native land and far from the mother tongue—they are thought to write by memory and to depend on a large extent on hearsay. … The autobiography can thus be said to be an abode in which … [they] take refuge."20 Baldwin fits this description to some degree as a writer rendered homeless by his multiple identities as a black queer African American, an author in exile, and a resident home owner in a Provençal village. He also expands it by showing us that building one's abode in language, through writing, through acts of imagination, visualization, and experience, goes hand in hand with establishing domestic spaces that can accommodate a rare and unique subject, a black queer American who has chosen to dwell in the world.21 While his house in St. Paul-de-Vence can serve as such a space only symbolically, as a memory and an elusive, fragmentary reminder of things past, it will come back to life, and thrive in a whole new format, as a series of numbers, codes, and algorithms.22

House-as-Archive and Its Manipulations

A house is not a home: we have all heard the proverb. Yet, if the house is not a home (home!) it can become only … a space to be manipulated—manipulation demanding rather more skill than grace.

—James Baldwin, "Architectural Digest Visits: James Baldwin" (1987)

As he reflects in his last published piece, "Architectural Digest Visits: James Baldwin," the writer saw his Provençal house as a space of fruitful creativity, sociability, and rootedness.23 While his sexuality is conspicuously absent from the account recorded in that coffee-table magazine, for those in the know, it is clear that his house yielded to black queer "manipulations," as he refers to his efforts to make the place his own, emphasizing its role as a haven after the assassinations of his friends "Medgar, Malcolm, Martin," a haven that has "found me just in time." The house offered a new life and a new canvas, and so the mantelpieces, walls, and desktops at Chez Baldwin were filled with [End Page 513] visual and textural arrangements that inspired his writing and nourished his complex aesthetic. His friend and interviewer Quincy Troupe remembers one of them vividly in the recently republished version of his last interview with the writer, which took place at the house in November 1987, days before Baldwin's death:

Figure 3. Chez Baldwin. Upstairs living room as left by David Baldwin. Photograph by author, 2000.
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Figure 3.

Chez Baldwin. Upstairs living room as left by David Baldwin. Photograph by author, 2000.

The many paintings and pieces of sculpture … a black pen-and-ink drawing of Nelson Mandela against an orange background, accompanied by a poem … an assemblage created by Jimmy's brother David in his honor. … The centerpiece was the citation of the French [End Page 514] Legion of Honor … a sword and an old hunting rifle, both pointing toward the certificate… a black-and-white photograph of Jimmy, an abstract steel sculpture of an Indian … two crystal inkwells, a figure resembling a guitar, and an oversize ink pen.24

I saw remnants of some of these collections when I first visited the house in 2000, when it was still filled with the writer's possessions, and wondered what stories they could tell, what new languages they were forging, as Baldwin lived the last years of his fierce creativity.25

When I returned to St. Paul-de-Vence in 2014, the house was empty and run down. Jill Hutchinson—the partner of Baldwin's younger brother David, who left the house in her care in 1996, when he died—invited me to study an archive of objects salvaged from the structure after it had been lost to developers, following a lawsuit, in the early 2000s. Allowed one day to empty the house of the Baldwin brothers' possessions then, and determined to save the Chez Baldwin contents from being thrown away, Hutchinson has kept them in storage for decades. I was fortunate to survey what remained of Baldwin's authorial haven—books, journals, magazines, files of photocopied pages, vinyl records, photos, posters, framed artworks, an electric typewriter, and print clippings that used to spill over shelves and desktops throughout the house. I returned to finalize the documentation in 2017 and 2018. The 2014 visit, on which I took many photographs of the house, took place just months before demolition erased the wing that housed Baldwin's study and living quarters. By now, the house's surviving tallest central part has been lost as well.

The image opening this section displays an arrangement that could have been the one Troupe describes—or what was left of it by 2000 when I took this photo—and was thus also likely made by David Baldwin, who was a gifted artist in his own right, and whose work adorned the house. A print of Richard Avedon's photographic montage hybridizing his own face and Baldwin's hung nearby, its edges curled with age and humidity. Avedon and Baldwin were De Witt Clinton High School buddies and later collaborated on a unique photo-text volume, Nothing Personal (1964). A colorful painting of a pregnant woman, created by David's son, Daniel, Baldwin's beloved nephew whom he liked showing off in the village, served as a screen for the fireplace in the living room upstairs.

The piles of boxes constituting the material remnants of Baldwin's life have survived to this day, painstakingly moved from one storage location to the next because of efforts colored by deeply personal motivations. For Hutchinson, this meant salvaging and preserving the objects that David Baldwin had kept in memory of his beloved brother, whom she never met. For me, the storage [End Page 515] boxes have seemed filled with treasures that could reveal Baldwin's reading tastes, the musical soundtrack of his everyday life, the names and numbers of people who called and left messages noted on loose pages of a telephone log, and many files of material he used to research his works, especially the brilliant last essay volume, The Evidence of Things Not Seen. Unlike the artifacts precious to traditional archives and libraries—manuscripts and letters that the Baldwin estate had removed upon his passing in 1987—the contents of his bookshelves, an electric typewriter, old photographs, and artwork were abandoned as possessing no value, as "not unique," as an archivist once explained to me, for to her they were detritus: refuse, if not trash.

Figure 4. View of the storage area with photographs of Baldwin and his mentor, the painter Beauford Delaney, and boxes of salvaged objects from Chez Baldwin. Photograph by author, 2014.
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Figure 4.

View of the storage area with photographs of Baldwin and his mentor, the painter Beauford Delaney, and boxes of salvaged objects from Chez Baldwin. Photograph by author, 2014.

There are now two small historical markers honoring Baldwin in New York City's Harlem and Greenwich Village neighborhoods—a street sign proclaiming "James Baldwin Place" on 128th Street, between 5th and Madison in Harlem where the building of the former P.S. 24, which Baldwin attended, still stands, and a plaque on the house on Horatio Street that he occupied for a while in the late 1950s. Yet there is still no writer's house or museum devoted to him [End Page 516] in St. Paul-de-Vence, not even a sign with his name and information confirming his residence.26 This absence—not at all surprising given how few African American writers' houses are open to the public in the United States—only compounds Baldwin's "homelessness" as one of the most important African Diaspora writers and intellectuals. Much like those of countless other black Americans whom the new museum in Washington honors, his legacy remains in flux, the material traces of his life almost completely erased in this country.

The need for a virtual house-museum for Baldwin may not seem urgent or obvious to those who consider his published works the only terrain worth examining and his manuscripts the only material part of his life worth salvaging. Scholarly desires for material preservation are more often than not at odds with those of estates, lawyers, and kin, not to mention archives and libraries. Hence, while the leftover Chez Baldwin artifacts I have studied were abandoned, I read these items as central to and marking Baldwin's daily life as a writer: his voluminous library; boxes of foreign editions of his works; photographs of him with friends, family, and lovers; even one of his extra electric typewriters. These objects demand reading as rich evidence of his black queer dwelling practices that are key to the composition of his important late novels and essays that finally are being recognized for their daring form and message, If Beale Street Could Talk, The Devil Finds Work, Just above My Head, The Evidence of Things Not Seen, and especially his unpublished play The Welcome Table. While offering rich visual documentation of the very milieu that enabled the writing of these works, my project resists the material erasure of Baldwin's life in the United States and France, and elucidates the unequal valuation of black and white literary legacies.

I include these discarded objects in my project to show that we must honor the inseparability of the material and metaphorical in Baldwin's writings, domestic practices, and life story. His complex connection to things and spaces is spelled out in his letters and powerfully inflects his last two novels, If Beale Street Could Talk and Just above My Head. I argue for putting to good use for scholars, teachers, and readers everywhere Baldwin's contribution to writing and rewriting the conundrums of black domesticity whose full impact on the US national house, which in a 1980 article for the Nation he termed the "house of bondage," we have yet to acknowledge.27 In this house, black people are not made to feel at home; even national heroes of their hue remain homeless here, like Rosa Parks, whose Detroit house was recently slated for demolition. After Parks's niece Rhea MacCauley had exhausted appeals to local authorities, she purchased the structure for $500 and caught the attention of an American artist living in Germany, Ryan Mendoza. He painstakingly [End Page 517] took the house apart and paid for its transport to Berlin, where it has become a popular museum. Why did this house have to be taken across the Atlantic to be saved? Why did the largest black city in the nation not have sufficient interest and resources to save it?28

What we understand as the matter of black lives, its materiality, traces, remnants, and even refuse, always has been, and now must therefore be, read differently from the matter of white lives that have so far taken historical precedence in the museums populating the US national house. How is it, one may ask, that Baldwin's house library has been abandoned as worthless, while the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University cherishes Walt Whitman's reading glasses as a precious artifact? While visiting to give a talk there, I asked two archivists from the Beinecke to discuss the remaining archive of books, objects, clippings, artwork and photographs from Chez Baldwin and the possibility of their acquiring it. To my astonishment, the archivists explained that, unless there were provable traces of Baldwin's "hand" on the books and other materials, they did not see any value in preserving these objects because they were not "unique." My weaving of enthusiastic visions of seminar rooms furnished with his books as both one-of-a-kind scholarly resources and museum-worthy exhibits did not sway them. The problem was an insurmountable difference in vision and imagination, and certainly in experience: I saw the books, files, magazines, and clippings as possessing great, unprecedented value in the simple fact that they once belonged to Baldwin, while the archivists, however they were trained, saw no value whatsoever in these materials.

Most glaringly, they neither comprehended the racial underpinnings of the cruel paradox in nor saw the point of answering the loaded question about Whitman's reading glasses versus Baldwin's library, photos, artwork, vinyl records, or an old, spare electric typewriter. A few months ago, as if in response to my scholarly rage concerning that response, the New York Times reported that the Beinecke had recently bought Jonathan Lethem's entire archive, including "dead-tree artifacts." The very same person who saw Baldwin's possessions as worthless spoke of this part of Lethem's archive as "playful" and "charmingly weird," and boasted that the purchase included his comic books, a trove of electronics, and many a drunken drawing of "vomiting cats" by the writer's friends.29

This issue of appraising what constitutes a writer's archive and material legacy, so obvious to some, is invisible or even incomprehensible to others. I see it as directly linked to what Hartman terms the "violence of the archive,"30 or the impossibility and scarcity of material documentation of black lives, the [End Page 518] "archival silences" if not deliberate erasure that those who work in African Diaspora studies have to contend with, no matter their historical focus. Today, we take for granted that electronic devices have become our "environments" and that we "inhabit" them. Hence Lethem's tablets, iPods, and laptops seem valuable sources of information as "born-digital archival holdings."31 That Baldwin's books, photos, records, and artwork are not uniformly valued, or are deemed not as valuable as Lethem's "dead tree artifacts," resonates with Brent Hays Edwards's claim that "there is never only one archive," that it gets made and remade as we study our object. Reading any documentary materials inevitably confronts us with the discovery that our work as scholars is "more a matter of intuition and serendipity—a speculative leap—than the discovery of some empirical ground of connection."32 The archive is not only personal and political: it is also filled with emotions, projections, and memories; it is a playground for interpretation, and who experiences it, and how, matters.

Life Matter

If I am a part of the American house, and I am, it is because my ancestors paid—striving to make it my home—so unimaginable a price: and I have seen some of the effects of that passion everywhere I have been, all over this world.

—James Baldwin, "Every Good-Bye Ain't Gone" (1977)

In his interview with Quincy Troupe, recorded at Chez Baldwin not long before he passed away, Baldwin complains about the ways in which his life story has become someone else's tale: "It's difficult to be a legend. It's hard for me to recognize me. You spend a lot of time trying to avoid it. … the way the world treats you is unbearable, and especially if you're black. … and you are not your legend, but you're trapped in it."33 At the end of his life, Baldwin sees himself as a "very despairing witness," estranged from "myself and my generation," who feels "more and more homeless in terms of the whole relationship between France and me and America."34 In the soundtrack to the 1970 gem of an art film that Sedat Pakay, a filmmaker and photographer, made about him in Istanbul and released in New York in 1973, James Baldwin: From Another Place, the writer rather optimistically acknowledges the profound advantages of his transatlantic location and optic: one always sees one's home better "from another place, from another country." No matter that many of his contemporaries did not appreciate that vantage point; he uses it to deftly focus on the vexing social and cultural issues at the center of the national house that is the United States. What he discusses only many years later, though, is that, while sometimes enviable and in his case always prolific, that remote and exilic [End Page 519] authorial vantage point is often a lonely, painful, and usually misunderstood location. Yet, that location was also what he needed, for it allowed him to hide his private and domestic life from public view.

"I certainly have not told my story yet," Baldwin explained to an interviewer in 1984. "I know that, though I've revealed fragments."35 His passing a mere three years later from a terminal illness confirms that this mysterious "story" of his had not had a chance to reach completion. By then, his ailing body had been sending signals he should not have ignored, though he did exactly that, for he was full of plans and projects as usual. He had people to see and places to go, like the international summit organized to accompany Mikhail Gorbachev's "perestroika" in the Soviet Union in 1986, where Baldwin was a guest of honor and speaker on global race issues. As he told another interviewer just a few years before, at the age of fifty-six, he had harbored great hopes for many more prolific years of activity: "For a writer, I'm very young. … I've an appointment with the twenty-first century … when I will still be under eighty."36

As Baldwin writes in "Every Good Bye Ain't Gone," his membership in the "American house," the "house of bondage" that is the United States, has exacted "so unimaginable a price" from his enslaved African ancestors that their "striving to make it my home" has imprinted the whole world with "passion." The meaning of "passion" for Baldwin resides in a complex place. As he writes in the same essay, "When 'home' drops below the horizon, it rises in one's breast and acquires the overwhelming power of menaced love."37 His politics and poetics of home embody a vexed relationship between their material and metaphorical powers, occupying a contested terrain where affect, location, temporality, identity, and the stories they tell remain in constant tension, assembling and disassembling their own multiple configurations.

Baldwin's comments on home as baggage and unrequited love also cement a different, popular image of him as a cosmopolitan—a supremely confident artist and jetsetter, comfortable living and traveling throughout the world. By the 1960s he had become a well-known writer, activist, and intellectual; by the 1970s he was secure financially, living in France, his books translated into multiple languages and read all over the world. Yet, while his fame outside his home country seemed to have reached its apotheosis, his works were not selling well in the United States. From the late 1960s through the 1980s his popularity declined, and reviews of his works were predominantly negative. Never able to produce much during visits to New York City—the place of his birth, where he came often to be with friends and his large, beloved family—Baldwin kept searching for writing havens outside his homeland. [End Page 520]

Part of a privileged group of twentieth-century African American artists and intellectuals who had the ability and means to live transnationally—for example, W. E. B. Du Bois, Josephine Baker, Paul Robeson, Eartha Kitt, Richard Wright, Chester Himes, Bertice Reading, Nina Simone—Baldwin was often dismissed by his contemporaries on both sides of the color line as being out of touch with his home country. Black, queer, and out decades before it became a more widely accepted choice, Baldwin was a pioneer of intersectional identity before it became the "it" term in the academy. At the same time, as scholars like Dwight McBride, Michele Elam, Quentin Miller, Lynn Orilla Scott, Douglas Field, and Magdalena Zaborowska claim, his legacy has been contentious, and those who commemorate it often divide into camps that honor either the black or the gay writer.38 As Kendall Thomas argues, ever since his funeral on December 8, 1987, the writer has been subjected to selective commemoration that usually elided his sexuality: "In the years since Baldwin's death … his testimony as a witness to gay experience has become the target of a certain revisionist impeachment … [even though] we live in a world in which individual identities are constructed in and through constructs of gendered sexual difference." Referring to what he terms the "jargon of racial authenticity," which excludes nonnormative sexualities from discussions of national blackness, Thomas sees Baldwin's black queer homelessness as a result of deliberate efforts to claim and domesticate him as a safely desexualized black writer, which attests to the exclusion of gay people of both sexes from the African American family.39

Baldwin begins the essay "Every Good-Bye Ain't Gone" recalling his flight across the Atlantic: "I am writing this note just twenty-nine years after my first departure from America." Musing on the split in his sense of himself as "a part of the American house," he employs divergent semantics of "house" and "home." The former refers to the state and nation that built its power and wealth on the backs of African slaves, genocide of Native Americans, and exploitation of its territories and immigrants. The latter refers to the private spaces of one's familial and domestic milieus, which, as of that essay's writing in 1977, the author still seems to be trying to locate.40 Indeed, as Baldwin recalls in the same essay, during his very first departure from Harlem for France on November 11, 1948, he was not happy. He was experiencing "rain, fatigue, panic, the absolute certainty of being dashed to death on the vindictive tooth of the Eiffel Tower," and those sensations overshadowed any possibility of "feeling the remotest exhilaration" on his arrival in Western Europe.

Baldwin was compelled to leave the United States because of who he was, too, for he "trusted no one and knew that he trusted no one, knew that this [End Page 521] distrust was suicidal and also knew that there was no question any longer of his life in America: his violent destruction could be taken as a given; "it was a matter of time." He recalls his youthful rage, "By the time I was twenty-two, I was a survivor … with murder in his heart."41 In light of this turbulent mix of emotions accompanied by physical dangers to his body, Baldwin's landing in France meant a blank slate and starting anew; as he writes, "there I was, in Paris, on my ass." Yet it also meant, "My ass, mister, mine: and I was glad."42 He continues somewhat gloomily, somewhat humorously, commenting on having to reinvent himself in a new place and language. This unhappy yet fortuitous landing in a foreign city meant, then, that being finally away from the American national house, he was now free to figure out what kind of home he wanted to make for himself as a writer and black queer American who both chose and was forced to live and find a new home in the world.

The Digital Is the Personal

Figure 5. Chez Baldwin Archive. A painting by David Baldwin. Photograph by author, 2014
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Figure 5.

Chez Baldwin Archive. A painting by David Baldwin. Photograph by author, 2014

[End Page 522]

Among the photographs I took of Baldwin's archive of leftover objects salvaged from his house in 2014, there is one that a publisher has rejected outright as a candidate for either a black-and-white in-text image or color for a glossy insert. The photograph shows a painting by Baldwin's younger brother, David, of two whitish, androgynous human figures filled with specks of color against a black background; they are supporting each other, caught up in the brightly green and white vegetation surrounding them. It might be read as a rendering of the tree of knowledge with conjoined, sexless bodies, one of whom is twisted as if in pain, while being supported by the other. It might be read, too, as reflecting the complex relationship between the brothers, in which the younger David managed James's affairs and cheered him on in his often-anguished writer's work while in turn being encouraged by his older brother to develop his own art and display it on the walls of the house.

The photograph of that painting was "bad" for several reasons. The first one has to do with scholarly mediation and physical labor necessary for collecting data or the fact that the glass on top of the painting reflects my figure with the digital camera as I am taking the shot. You can also see my then twelve-year-old son by my side, his blue-and-white T-shirt, locks, and face clearer than my body. The second reason for this photograph's failure, but also for its importance to this project, has to do with what some digital humanities scholars recognize as the vitality of the whole, unedited work process that has led to the final result—the often-mundane sequence of events and actors that usually become lost in more traditional scholarship's focus on conclusions. My "bad" photograph is furthermore framed in such a way that it also features the cut-off hand of the owner, savior, and preserver of the archive, Jill Hutchinson. She is holding the painting, her bracelet partially visible against the drab background of the storage shed filled with stacked objects.

This unintended visual record of reflected human figures, body parts, and messy interior inside its frame, the very "badness" of this photograph, provides a profound illustration of the knotty and often vexed relationships between experience, language, and image in the production of intersubjective knowledge that brings together literary and literal worlds, or the material and the metaphorical realms of research whose combination I find key to the study of African American cultural productions and of their creators. An antithesis of a "valuable" reproduction, indeed a dismal failure as a digitized archival document, this image nevertheless allows its beholder to discern the interlocking processes of technological reproduction and interpersonal mediation behind its making, indeed, the physical and material circumstances in which it has been obtained. The interlocking physical and digital labor it exacted, visible or not, deeply informs and shapes its intellectual interpretation. [End Page 523]

Recalling again Morrison's godlings of human experience, language, and image, I would like to close this essay with a call for American studies as a field of scholarly inquiry to pay closer attention to the tools we use while collecting data. For while we allow various remnants of lives we research to speak for themselves, or lead us outside our comfort zones, our subjects and objects of study are sources of narrative as well as visual information. Located between the material and digital, they become personal and physical presences in our lives and extensions of ourselves. It is high time American studies followed the example of digital humanities and embraced innovative computing technologies, along with new ways of publishing and disseminating knowledge through open-access sites. Referring to the work of digital humanities as the "digital 'folding' of reality, whereby one is able to approach culture in a radically new way," David Berry explains the need for what he terms its "third wave," one that would "look at the digital component of the digital humanities in the light of its medium specificity, as a way of thinking about how medial changes produce epistemic changes."43 One such change inflects what literary scholars have been discussing for centuries, it seems: the importance of organizing textual devices, such as the structure of the plot, modes of characterization and composition, and the design of a narrative point of view, among others. As Berry explains, "Pattern and narrative are useful analytic terms that enable us to see the way in which the computational turn is changing the nature of knowledge."44 Hence digitally focused researchers would do well to embrace what is sometimes dismissed as "traditional" approaches to text and context. Such collaborations would expand and enrich, and have done so already in some cases, both sides of the debate.

While reflecting both of these approaches, my project argues for studying what Ann Hale and Shannon Smith call "a heightened awareness of the ways historical documents and digital resources present narratives about themselves."45 Especially needed in African American studies, where documentation, interpretation, and preservation efforts have been historically hampered by racialized systems of adjudicating research results and archival values, our digital tools can help us to fight back, but also require that we use them wisely. I agree with McPherson that "we should reject … [the] limited role for the humanities scholar and instead fully engage with the platforms and tools of the digital era." The "new forms of collaboration and engagement" we employ to do our work these days may "push us beyond our scholarly comfort zones," she explains. Her description of the "multimodal humanist, [who] brings together databases, scholarly tools, networked writing, and peer-to-peer commentary [End Page 524] while also leveraging the potential of visual and aural media that so dominate contemporary life" sums up what "Archiving" aspires to become.46

In its desire to preserve, to the degree that a project like this allows, what remains of the matter and stories of the domestic life of James Arthur Baldwin, "Archiving" offers an assembled portrait of a writer whose imagination and passion for social justice filtered through all kinds of intellectual and visionary spaces—from nation to city streets to the privacy of the bedroom. By contextualizing Baldwin's ideas within his biography, scholarship, and recent popular events devoted to his legacy, as much as within his complex literary works and the eclectic archive of material objects salvaged from his dwelling, "Archiving" highlights his personal contradictions, challenges, and struggles, which his essays, interviews, and brilliant letters reveal as being always unabashedly political, regardless of current theoretical vogue or idiom. Most important, "Archiving" confirms and celebrates Baldwin's proud domestication of our shared humanity and his fierce embrace of himself as a marginalized subject and inimitable individual—"black, poor, and homosexual," as an interviewer once put it—as his most enduring gift.47

Magdalena Zaborowska

Magdalena J. Zaborowska is professor and John Rich Faculty Fellow at the Institute for the Humanities, Departments of American Culture and Afroamerican and African Studies, University of Michigan. She researches literary and cultural studies approaches to intersections of social space and transatlantic discourses on race, nationality, (queer) sexuality, and gender; African American literature, immigrant ethnicities, feminist, and critical race theory; and post-totalitarian east-central Europe. Among others, she is the author of Me and My House: James Baldwin's Last Decade in France (Duke University Press, 2018).


I warmly thank Joe Bauer (PhD, research computing consultant), Sally Bjork (photographer, Visual Resources Collections and History of Art), Dahlia Petrus (MA, program manager for recruitment at Rackham Graduate School), and my colleagues in American culture and Afroamerican and African studies—Kristin Hass, Sandra Gunning, Frieda Ekotto, and Alex Stern—of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor for lending their expertise to and support for this project. I am also grateful to the American Quarterly editorial team for ensuring my essay's smooth progression to publication, and to all the special issue editors, and especially Amy Earhart and Angel David Nieves, for their encouragement and advice.

1. Additional images related to this project can be seen in the "Beyond the Page" supplementary section online. This essay bridges my recently published Me and My House: James Baldwin's Last Decade in France (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2018).

2. There is a twenty-year restriction on publishing these papers. See New York Public Library, "The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture Acquires Papers of Renowned Literary Icon James Baldwin," April 12, 2017,–2017/schomburg-center-research-black-culture-acquires-papers-renowned.

3. See Michele Elam, "Review of New York City's 'The Year of Baldwin,'" James Baldwin Review 1 (2015): 202–6, and her assessment of his complex legacies on pages 203–4.

4. Miriam Posner, "What's Next: The Radical, Unrealized Potential of Digital Humanities," Debates in the Digital Humanities 2016, ed. Matthew K. Gold and Lauren F. Klein (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2016), 32–41. I disagree that technology could ever fully reflect "people's lived experiences" (34). What it can do, as my project shows, is to approximate that experience and provide carefully calibrated tools to stimulate the imagination, so that we can come closer to envisaging what it is like to be in the shoes of the other.

5. See David J. Kim, "Archives, Models, and Methods for Critical Approaches to Identities: Representing Race and Ethnicity in the Digital Humanities" (PhD diss., UCLA, January 1, 2015), See also Mark Vareschi and Mattie Burkert, "Archive, Numbers, Meaning: The Eighteenth-Century Playbill at Scale," Theatre Journal 68.4 (2016): 597–613: "To bring a more nuanced understanding of data's mediated and constructed nature to the work of large-scale digital analysis requires a historicized and theorized account of the resources that enable it" (598); Bonnie Mak, "Archeology of a Digitization," Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology 65.8 (2014): 1515–26; and Maurice B. Wheeler, "Politics and Race in American Historical Popular Music: Contextualized Access and Minstrel Music Archives," Archival Science 11 (2011): 47–75.

6. Posner, "What's Next"; Kim Gallon, "Making a Case for the Black Digital Humanities," in Debates in the Digital Humanities 2016, ed. Matthew K. Gold and Lauren F. Klein (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2016), 47. See also Alan Liu on injecting DH with "sociocultural meaning," ("Where Is Cultural Criticism in the Digital Humanities?," in Debates in the Digital Humanities, ed. Matthew K. Gold [Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012], 490–509); Cathy M. Davidson's call for a "humanities of engagement" (486) or a paradigm shift in which both humanities and technology can be seen as "two sides of a necessarily interdependent, conjoined and mutually constitutive set of intellectual, educational, social, political, and economic practices" (477) ("Humanities 2.0: Promise, Perils, Predictions," in Debates in the Digital Humanities, ed. Matthew K. Gold [Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012], 476–89).

7. See also Bethany Noviskie, "Resistance in the Materials," Debates in the Digital Humanities 2016, ed. Matthew K. Gold and Lauren F. Klein (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2016), 176–83.

8. Tara McPherson, "Introduction: Media Studies and the Digital Humanities," Cinema Journal 48.2 (2009): 122.

9. See Liu, "Where Is Cultural Criticism in the Digital Humanities?," 491. See also Collectif James Baldwin de Paris, created in 1993 by the actor and director Samuel Légitimus, which operates a website and a Facebook page; Karen Thorsen, director of James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket (1989), has initiated a public humanities database called "The James Baldwin Project," whose website links events and venues that include "Conversations with Jimmy" at colleges, universities, and town halls showings of her documentary. See (accessed March 30, 2016).

10. See, e.g., Timothy Morton, Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013); Elizabeth Grosz, "Feminism, Materialism, and Freedom," in New Materialisms: Ontology, Agency, and Politics, ed. Diana H. Coole and Samantha Frost (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010), 70–91; Diana H. Coole, "The Inertia of Matter and the Generativity of Flesh," in New Materialisms: Ontology, Agency, and Politics, ed. Diana H. Coole and Samantha Frost (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010), 92–115. A good example of how the digital realm helps us to understand US racist housing policy is See also Richard Rothstein, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America (New York: Liveright, 2017).

11. See Brent Hayes Edwards, "The Taste of the Archive," Callaloo 35.4 (2012): 944–72: "Orchestrated fragments echo the fragmentation of the archive itself. They are meant as a reminder that the distribution of archival artifacts into a historical narrative cannot deliver the past in a manner that would be seamless, much less exhaustive" (961), as well as his concept of "a queer practice of the archive: an approach to the material preservation of the past that deliberately aims to retain what is elusive, what is hard to pin down, what can't quite be explained or filed away according to the usual categories" (970). See also Saidiya Hartman, "Venus in Two Acts," Small Axe 12.2 (2008): 1–14, on "critical fabulation" as appropriate for approaching archives critically, and on archive as "open casket" (5–8).

12. My tools: image capture and copy photography that require using a camera, scanner, LED lights, tripod(s), image organization, and analysis using Adobe Bridge and Adobe Lightroom, as well as photogrammetry (creation of 3-D models from photos; model making with AutoDesk ReMake software), which creates the 3-D wireframe (mesh) model and texture map from the photographs. The software I am considering includes Fusion360, Unity, Unreal, Stingray, 123D Make, ArtCAM, AutoCAD, Maya, 3dsMax, Mudbox, and Blender.

13. Online exhibition of digital assets will include work with the following: Exploring Omeka installed on a CPanel on a virtual server cluster for hosting and metadata (especially Omeka plugins for the visual display of the curated exhibit).

14. See Raymond Williams, The Long Revolution (Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 1961): the "methods of analysis which, over a range from literature to social institutions, can articulate actual structures of feeling—the meanings and values which are lived in works and relationships—and clarify the processes of historical developments through which these structures form and change" (emphasis mine). I am particularly interested in how we can interpret the focus on what Williams refers to as the "created and creative meanings—which our inherited reality teaches and through which new reality forms and is negotiated" (319).

15. Avery Gordon, Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008); Marisa Parham, Haunting and Displacement in African American Literature and Culture (New York: Routledge, 2008); Shawn Michelle Smith, At the Edge of Sight: Photography and the Unseen (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013).

16. Diane Fuss, The Sense of an Interior: Four Writers and the Rooms That Shaped Them (New York: Routledge, 2004); Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009). See also the scholarship of Sidonie Smith, Angel David Nieves, Katherine McKittrick, Craig Wilkins, Gaston Bachelard, Michel Foucault, Walter Benjamin, Mabel Wilson, David Miller, Tara McPherson, and Ruth W. Gilmore on social space, literature, material culture, black geographies, and the digital.

17. "On the basis of some information and … guesswork you journey to a site to see what remains were left behind and to reconstruct the world that these remains imply. What makes it fiction is the nature of the imaginative act: my reliance on the image—on the remains—in addition to recollection, to yield up a kind of truth. By 'image,' … I simply mean 'picture' and the feelings that accompany the picture" (Toni Morrison, "The Site of Memory," in Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir, ed. William Zinsser [New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1995], 92–93).

18. Morrison, "Site of Memory," 92–93.

19. See Angel D. Nieves, "Reevaluating Places: Hidden Histories from the Margins," Places 20.1 (2008): 21–25,; William Gleason, Sites Unseen: Architecture, Race, and American Literature (New York: New York University Press, 2011), 26–27; Magdalena J. Zaborowska, "From Baldwin's Paris to Benjamin's: The Architectonics of Race and Sexuality in Giovanni's Room," Journal of Transnational American Studies 7.1 (2016),; Leslie Kanes Weisman, Discrimination by Design: A Feminist Critique of the Man-Made Environment (University of Illinois Press, 1992); Magdalena J. Zaborowska, "No House in the World for James Baldwin: Reading Transnational Black Queer Domesticity in St. Paul-de-Vence," in Spatial Perspectives: Essays on Literature and Architecture, ed. Terri Mulholland and Nicole Sierra (Bern: Peter Lang, 2015), 216–48.

20. Trinh T. Minh-Ha, "Other Than Myself / My Other Self," in Travellers' Tales: Narratives of Home and Displacement, ed. George Robertson (New York: Routledge, 1994), 9.

21. See Amy Kaplan, "Manifest Domesticity," American Literature 70.3 (1998): 581–606, where national Americanness excludes blacks and queers. See also Janet Floyd and Inga Bryden, Domestic Space: Reading the Nineteenth-Century Interior (Manchester: Manchester University Press; St. Martin's, 1999); and Irene Cieraad, At Home: An Anthropology of Domestic Space (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1999).

22. An artist-activist started a campaign to save the house in the summer of 2016: "His Place in Provence" ( [July 5, 2016]). Now, Les Amis de la Maison-Baldwin: (accessed May 24, 2018).

23. James Baldwin, "Architectural Digest Visits: James Baldwin," Architectural Digest, August 1987, 122.

24. James Baldwin: The Last Interview and Other Conversations (Melville House Press, 2014), 80. See also Nicholas Boggs's review, Lambda Literary Newsletter, February 28, 2015,

25. For accounts of other visits, see Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, "The Weight of James Arthur Baldwin," Buzzfeed, February 29, 2016, (contains factual errors); Thomas Chatterton Williams, "Breaking into James Baldwin's House," New Yorker, October 28, 2015,; Douglas Field, "On Breaking into James Baldwin's House," Times Literary Supplement, July 30, 2014,

26. See the Horatio Street event, sponsored by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and the Two Boots Foundation: (accessed April 3, 2016).

27. See also Kareem Fahim, "Fleeing Anger in America, James Baldwin Found Solace in 1960s Turkey," Washington Post, February 27, 2017,–11e6-a100-fdaaf400369a_story.html?utm_term=.edf7e5d6e049; and Matt St. John, "The Fight to Save the House of James Baldwin," Vice, February 23, 2017,

28. Sally McGrane, "Saved from Demolition, Rosa Parks House Gets a Second Life," New York Times, May 2, 2017, See also Mary Papenfuss, "What Is Rosa Parks' House Doing in Berlin?," Huffpost, April 10, 2017,

29. Jennifer Schuessler, "Inside an Author's Oddball Trove of Artifacts," New York Times, January 2, 2017.

30. Hartman, "Venus in Two Acts," 1.

31. Matthew Kirschenbaum, Erika L. Farr, Kari M. Kraus, Naomi Nelson, Catherine Stollar Peters, Gabriela Redwine, and Doug Reside, "Digital Materiality: Preserving Access to Computers as Complete Environments," iPres 2009: The Sixth International Conference on Preservation of Digital Objects (2009),; quoted in Thomsa Crombez and Edith Cassiers, "Postdramatic Methods of Adaptation in the Age of Digital Collaborative Writing," Journal of the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations 32.1 (2017): 17–35.

32. Edwards, "Taste of the Archive," 961.

33. Quincy Troupe, "Last Interview," in James Baldwin: The Last Interview, 189. See also "Introduction: What Is Domestic Space?," in The Domestic Space Reader, ed. Chiara Briganti and Kathy Mezei (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2012), 3–15, on the changing meaning of the term, given that "the immense reach and influence of global and transnational economies have provoked a contrary desire for the local and the domestic quote which has increased the scrutiny of the home" (4).

34. Troupe, "Last Interview," 190–91.

35. Baldwin, James Baldwin: The Last Interview, 242.

36. This interview, with an unidentified woman, is available on YouTube, posted July 31, 2009, by Afrikanliberation. I have been unable to locate its source. Baldwin identifies his age as fifty-six, hence it must have been made in 1980:

37. Baldwin, Price of the Ticket, 646–47.

38. See Michele Elam, ed., The Cambridge Companion to James Baldwin (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015); Douglas Field, ed., All Those Strangers: The Art and Lives of James Baldwin (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), A Historical Guide to James Baldwin (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009); Dwight McBride, ed., James Baldwin Now (New York: New York University Press, 1999); McBride, "Can the Queen Speak? Racial Essentialism, Sexuality, and the Problem of Authority," Callaloo 21.2 (1998): 363–79; Quentin D. Miller, A Criminal Power: James Baldwin and the Law (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2012); Miller, "Going to Meet James Baldwin in Provence," James Baldwin Review 1 (2015): 140–51; Miller, ed., Re-viewing James Baldwin: Things Not Seen (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2000); Lynn Orilla Scott, James Baldwin's Later Fiction: Witness to the Journey (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2002); Magdalena J. Zaborowska, James Baldwin's Turkish Decade: Erotics of Exile (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009).

39. Kendall Thomas, "'Ain't Nothin' Like the Real Thing': Black Masculinity, Gay Sexuality, and the Jargon of Authenticity," in The House That Race Built: Original Essays by Toni Morrison, Angela Y. Davis, Cornel West, and Others on Black Americans and Politics in America Today, ed. Wahneema Lubiano (New York: Vintage, 1998), 116.

40. James Baldwin, The Price of the Ticket: Collected Nonfiction, 1948–1985 (New York: St. Martin's, 1985), 642.

41. Ibid., emphasis added.

42. Ibid., 644.

43. David M. Berry, "The Computational Turn: Thinking about the Digital Humanities," Culture Machine 12 (2011): 1–22. I am not commenting on Berry's involvement with code, as this is not relevant to my argument.

44. Ibid., 14.

45. Ann M. Hale and Shannon R. Smith, "You See, but You Do Not Observe": Hidden Infrastructure and Labour in the Strand Magazine and Its Twenty-First-Century Digital Iterations," Victorian Periodicals Review 49.4 (2016): 664–93.

46. See also Liu, "Where Is Cultural Criticism in the Digital Humanities"; and Posner, "What's Next."

47. This passage opens James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket, directed by Karen Thorsen (California Newsreel, 1989).

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