Baldwin’s writing career began in the last years of legislated segregation; his fame as a social observer grew in tandem with the civil rights movement as he mirrored blacks’ aspirations, disappointments, and coping strategies in a hostile society.
Tri-Quarterly contributor Robert A. Bone declared that Baldwin’s publications “have had a stunning impact on our cultural life” because the author “... succeeded in transposing the entire discussion of American race relations to the interior plane; it is a major breakthrough for the American imagination.”
White people reading Baldwin sensed his truth about the lives of black people and the sins of a racist nation.”
... In the third place, Baldwin is a bold and courageous writer who is not afraid to search into the dark corners of our social consciences, and to force out into public view many of the hidden, sordid skeletons of our society.
In the British Journal of Sociology, Beau Fly Jones claimed that Baldwin was one of the first black writers “to discuss with such insight the psychological handicaps that most Negroes must face; and to realize the complexities of Negro-white relations in so many different contexts.