- David Leeming received his B.A. in English from Princeton University in 1958 and his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature in 1970 from New York University, where his dissertation, under the direction of Leon Edel, was on Henry James and the French Novelists.
- Following his graduation from Princeton, Leeming taught at Robert College in Istanbul for eight years. He met James Baldwin there in 1961. Later, during his graduate school years in New York, he worked as Baldwin’s personal assistant, sorting and filing papers, attending to correspondence, and doing speech research. In 1965 he accompanied Baldwin back to Istanbul where, with Baldwin’s younger brother David, they lived for a year. During that time Baldwin completed Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone, a novel which he dedicated to Leeming and to his brother David. Leeming maintained his friendship with Baldwin during the years that followed. The two exchanged many visits: in Amherst, Massachusetts, where Baldwin often taught in the 1980s; in London, when their paths crossed; in Connecticut, where Leeming lived with his wife and children; and in St. Paul de Vence, France, where Baldwin lived for part of each year. Leeming spent the last days of Baldwin’s life in St. Paul de Vence, where he helped David Baldwin care for his brother.
- After Baldwin’s passing, Leeming sorted and filed the author’s papers in France and combined them with the papers he had sorted in New York, back in the 1960s. In 1994, Knopf published Leeming’s biography of Baldwin (James Baldwin: A Biography ). Baldwin had authorized the biography and he and his brother David were fully cooperative during the research process leading up to it, sitting for numerous interviews. The project was supported by Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and from The Schombug Center for Research in Black Culture. Later, Leeming served as both an On-Camera Witness and a Scholar/Advisor for Karen Thorsen’s award-winning film for PBS/American Masters, JAMES BALDWIN: THE PRICE OF THE TICKET.
- Between 1969 and 1995, while raising his children, Leeming taught at the University of Connecticut in Storrs. After completing the Baldwin biography, he lived for several years in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he pursued an interest in Native American culture. During those years he also completed a biography of Baldwin’s mentor and close friend, the painter Beauford Delaney (Amazing Grace: A Life of Beauford Delaney, 1998) for Oxford University Press. Leeming had come to know Delaney well during the years he worked for Baldwin – and, beginning in the late 1980s, he gave lectures on both Baldwin and Delaney at many universities and cultural centers.
- Leeming has also written a biography of Stephen Spender and many books for Oxford University Press in his academic field, Mythology, including the Oxford Companion to World Mythology (2005). His most recent work – for Reaktion Press in England – is Medusa: In the Mirror of Time (2013).
David A. Leeming
Scholar / Advisor
The James Baldwin Project
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