Baldwin seemed to spend most of his childhood struggling against his father. His father wanted him to preach like he had while Baldwin wanted to write. He grew up in Harlem where he was in the majority and, against his father’s advice, easily befriended white people. When he moved to New Jersey, he encountered an environment much less friendly to Blacks. He became the minority in a segregated town. The poor treatment he received in New Jersey created a bitterness in Baldwin that matched the bitterness that his father had. His father’s bitterness had become his. He also does not act unlike the paranoid schizophrenic that his father was when he displayed some of his father’s violence at yet another restaurant’s refusal to serve him because he was Black.
In the first few sentences of the essay, Baldwin notes that his sister was born on the same day that his father died and that his father was buried on Baldwin’s birthday. Both of these events suggest a rebirth of sorts and, in a way, the essay ends in a rebirth. At the time of his father’s death, Baldwin has finally come to understand him and realize their similarities. Baldwin’s father has, in effect, been reborn in him.
Baldwin explains how his paranoid and angered father died of tuberculosis when he himself was 19 years old. Prior to that Baldwin had been taken to the theatre by a white teacher of his, and his parents had let him go because she was a teacher. Later he worked in New Jersey and was often turned down in segregated places (Baldwin) once he hurled a pitcher of water at a waitress in a diner. He goes on to say that blacks doing the military service in the South often got abused. Finally, he recounts his father's death which occurred just before his mother gave birth to one of his sisters; his father's funeral was on his 19th birthday and the Harlem Riot of 1943. This essay is an attempt to do away with the hatred and despair he feels towards his father.
The hatred many African Americans possessed during the 1950s caused multiple riots. Baldwin touches on this in “Notes of a Native Son”, by mentioning the Harlem riots that broke out during the time of his father’s death. Baldwin states that “it…