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Achebe–Baldwin at 40

A Living Archive

Achebe Baldwin talking

The Official A|B @ 40 Online Exhibition

The Achebe|Baldwin @ 40 event was created to commemorate the extraordinary first and only meeting of James Baldwin and Chinua Achebe on the UF campus in 1980.

While researching to put together this conference, the Center for African Studies uncovered an array of archived material. The content we discovered overflowed beyond the scope of our two-day conference.

This Living Archive holds all of that additional content and information. Ranging from photos of UF campus in the 1980 provided by the University Archives, to a podcast about the ALA conference created by the students of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, this virtual exhibit has so much to explore beyond the event.

We also invite you to contribute! Because this archive is alive and growing, if you have a photograph on campus during the 80’s, an essay, a video clip, or anything you’d like to add to this page, you may do so by submitting it here for review.

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Achebe | Baldwin Timeline

  • 1924
    James Baldwin was born on August 2, 1924 in Harlem, New York.

  • 1930
    Chinua Achebe was born on November 16, 1930 in Ogidi Nigeria.

  • 1948
    BaldwinIn 1948 at 24, Baldwin moved to France to escape racism and homophobia in the U.S. While in France, he began writing many of his famous poems, novels, and essays.

  • 1964
    AchebeDuring the Biafran civil war, Achebe toured the United States with Gabriel Okara and Cyprian Ekwensi. Achebe understood his role as a representative of a Biafra beyond starving children. After the war, Achebe lost his family house, his publishing house, books, and his friend, Christopher Okigbo.

  • 1956
    Giovanni's Room Book CoverIn his book, Giovanni’s Room (1956), Baldwin describes the life of an American in Paris. It explores themes of relationships, romance, and homosexuality. Giovanni, an Italian bartender, that the American man meets at a gay bar in Paris becomes the center of the book.

  • 1958
    Things Fall Apart Book CoverThings Fall Apart (1958) is Achebe’s debut novel. The book concerns traditional Igbo life at the time of the advent of missionaries and colonial government in his homeland.

  • 1961
    In 1961, Achebe married Christie Chinwe Okoli, with whom he would have four children. During this decade he wrote the follow-up novels to Things Fall Apart, including No Longer at Ease (1960) and Arrow of God (1964), as well as A Man of the People (1966).

  • 1963
    Time Magazine Baldwin CoverOn the May 17, 1963, Baldwin was featured on the cover of Time Magazine. One of his most famous essays, The Fire Next Time, was the first essay in history to spend forty-one weeks in the top five of the N.Y. Times Bestseller List.

  • 1975
    An Image of Africa CoverIn 1975, Achebe lectured “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness,” at the University of Massachusetts. He asserted that Joseph Conrad’s famous novel dehumanizes Africans. When published in essay form, it went on to become a seminal postcolonial African work.

  • 1980
    On meeting Achebe in 1980, Baldwin said, “this is my brother who I’m meeting 400 years after”. This statement echoes the history of slavery and the detachment it caused. Homegoing as a physical return and badlwin-achebe as a psychological return.

  • 1987
    In a 1987 TV interview, Baldwin is asked about the decriminalization of homosexuality and the prejudice against gay folx. Asked this during the height of the AIDS epidemic, Baldwin answers, “Love is where you find it,” and goes on to say, “No one has a right to try to tell another human being whom he or she can or should love.”

  • 1987
    James Baldwin died of stomach cancer in 1987 in St. Paul de Vence in the south of France.

  • 1990
    In 1990 Achebe was in a car accident in Nigeria that left him paralyzed from the waist down. This would confine him to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

  • 2013
    Chinua Achebe died in Boston, Massachusetts in 2013.

Listening Station

Achebe | Baldwin: A Zine

Want to contribute something to the Achebe-Baldwin Living Archive? Contact us for more information.