James Baldwin

Blue plaque unveiled at Hackney CVS

“It’s significant that we’re all here today to honour the links between such remarkable figures as CLR James and James Baldwin.” Dr Margaret Busby CBE

A blue plaque for legendary civil rights activist and author James Baldwin was unveiled at our office in Dalston on Friday 17 May 2024. Baldwin visited the building in 1985 when it was the CLR James library – named after the Trinidadian writer.

Baldwin, the author of influential works such as Go Tell It on the Mountain and If Beale Street Could Talk is often mentioned in the same breath as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.

Reflecting on her friendship with Baldwin, Margaret Busby spoke about his political activism and love of literature:

“Jimmy seemed to be in London quite often. In 1968 he featured in a film by Horace Ové…alongside the activist and comedian Dick Gregory, talking about Black identity in Britain and America. Jimmy spoke at a 1978 meeting I was at, at Friends House in Euston, calling for the release of Ngugi wa Thiong’o and other political prisoners in Kenya.

Jimmy was an encourager and supporter of talent wherever he spotted it. It was Jimmy who challenged Mary Angelou to write her first autobiographical work, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, and she never looked back.

James Baldwin may never have been the recipient of a national book award or a Pulitzer Prize, but for the generosity of his spirit, the reach of his activism and the rhythm of his words, he more than deserves the continued recognition that this plaque represents.”

Videos of Margaret Busby and Anton Phillips speeches coming soon. Please check back!

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Tony Wong, chief executive of Hackney CVS, said: “We were humbled and honoured to learn of the connection between our building and the legendary James Baldwin. At Hackney CVS, we champion social justice and fairness, and push for equality, inclusion and diversity, with an avid focus on building an anti-racist society.”

Baldwin’s plaque is part of a scheme run by the Nubian Jak Community Trust that highlights the underrepresented contributions made by Black people. Dr Jak Beula, CEO of the Nubian Jak Community Trust said: “We are excited on reaching the milestone of 100 plaques in the UK. James Baldwin is a worthy recipient.”

The plaque was sponsored by Black History Walks, which organises walks, talks and films on London’s Black history, and Jacaranda Books, a Black-owned independent publisher.

He was fully conscious of his race, a black man. He was clear about his sexuality, a gay man. He was knowledgeable and articulate about the implications of the repugnant & ruinious forces of associated discrimination.

Poem by Dave Neita - listen to the poem at the end of the page