The roughly 10-acre property once home to the acclaimed author-activist, James Baldwin, could soon be demolished.
While so many are condemning the possibility, Steven G. Fullwood, associate curator for the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, believes the demolition of what was once the beloved abode of Baldwin will not erase the rich legacy the author-activist leaves behind.
“Baldwin’s legacy lives on in activists and writers and in expressions of truthspeak that deal with race, class, and sexuality,” Fullwood told NBCBLK via email. “I see the house as a significant moment in his life, not his life, and the relationships that he formed will endure forever in some form.”
Baldwin is critically acclaimed for his many essays, novels, plays and poetry. He is also lauded for the ways in which he influenced culture not only through his writing, but also his relationships with others across the globe.
His home in South France is reported to have been a safe haven for many artists and activists, including Quincy Jones, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Beauford Delaney and others.
When he died in 1987, ownership of the property went to his younger brother, David. When David died, the property landed under the responsibility of Baldwin’s former landlady, Jeanne Fauré. But now the property in under the ownership of a developer.
According to OUT Magazine, the developer plans to level the land and build luxury villas.
Fullwood calls the demolition a sad missed opportunity.
“It’s a shame that the developer [doesn’t] know or care about Baldwin’s house in Saint-Paul-de-Vence enough to preserve it,” he said. “France was fortunate to have Baldwin’s brilliance in residence. It would have made an incredible testament to Baldwin’s enduring genius, as well as the countless people who came to visit him like Nina Simone and Josephine Baker, and others.”
Some have suggested the property be preserved, even though much of the house has fallen to shambles. According to Hyperllergic.com, the writing room is still intact.
If by chance the property is saved, Fullwood suggests the house be turned into a museum. But the demolition is nothing new for black history and black cultural preservation, he added.
“Black people, en masse, in the US are used to having their monuments, things or people they loved destroyed; just think of the legacy of slavery,” Fullwood said. “It’s been a steadfast component of black cultural identity – the idea that anything that might mean something to us or tell our stories, can be coopted, monetized or destroyed by white supremacy.”