James Baldwin's style of writing is known for its eloquence and its ability to make powerful social critiques through rhetoric and narrative. Baldwin worked as a preacher prior to becoming a writer, and many of his words carry a rhythm adapted from public speaking. His text often contains religious cadences and imagery, but it has been criticized at times for being too didactic or overbearing.

Baldwin's writings include the novel "Go Tell It on the Mountain" as well as several book-length essays, including "Notes of a Native Son" and several plays. His novels and plays depict characters and story lines that ask important social questions about both racial and sexual equality.

James Baldwin's style was influenced by his early readings of the Bible. It was also influenced by his many activist friends including Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, as well as by artists of the era like Nina Simone. Baldwin was considered to be one of the most important writers of the civil rights era.

"Notes of a Native Son" was a series of essays, one of which critiqued Richard Wright's 1940 novel "Native Son." Baldwin dismissed Wright's novel as protest writing, and the two ended their friendship at that point.