Distinguished Visiting Professor of Ethnic Studies: James Baldwin at BGSU, 1977-1981


2017 marked the 38th anniversary of James Baldwin’s first Visiting Professorship at Bowling Green State University.  BGSU was the first American university to extend an invitation to the 20th-century artist - novelist, poet, playwright, social activist & critic - to a residency in higher education. This digital exhibit was created on the occasion of celebrating the 38th anniversary of "Passage to America," an evening lecture delivered by Baldwin at BGSU on November 9, 1979.

James Baldwin and Dr. Ernest Champion teaching at BGSU

Over the course of five years, James Baldwin served BGSU in residencies as Writer and Distinguished Visiting Professor of Ethnic Studies, as documented in Dr. Ernest Champion's monograph, Mr. Baldwin, I Presume: James Baldwin - Chinua Achebe, A Meeting of the Minds (1995).  Dr. Champion, then Assistant Director & Assistant Professor of Ethnic Studies, is responsible for successfully inviting both Baldwin and Achebe to campus.

The sampling of materials in this exhibit, including interviews, campus publicity, correspondence, letters, and photographs, originate from the Department of Ethnic Studies records (UA-0066) and the University Archives photographs collection (UA-0114) at the Center for Archival Collections.

At the time of his professorship, James Baldwin had written four books (novels), one children's book, and two plays:

  • Go Tell It On the Mountain (1953)
  • Giovanni’s Room (1956)
  • Another Country (1962)
  • Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone (1968)
  • “Blues for Mr. Charlie” (1964) and “The Amen Corner" (1968)
  • Little Man Little Man: A Story of Childhood (1976)

He finished Just Above My Head (1979) during his time at BG.


November 2017


This exhibit was arranged by Megan Goins-Diouf, Reference Archivist, Center for Archival Collections, University Libraries. With extended thanks to Dr. Thomas Edge (Ethnic Studies), Ryan Arnold (Graduate Assistant in History), and Ann L. Von Mehren (School of Media & Communication Ph.D. student). Technical support was provided by Nick Pavlik, Curator of Manuscripts and Digital Projects, Center for Archival Collections.
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