James Baldwin Quotes

James Arthur Baldwin, an American writer of exceptional talent, achieved recognition through his versatile contributions to various literary forms, encompassing essays, novels, plays, and poetry. Wikipedia

“Everything in life depends on how that life accepts its limits.” ~ James Baldwin

“You don’t have a home until you leave it and then, when you have left it, you never can go back.” ~ James Baldwin

“The world is before you and you need not take it or leave it as it was when you came in.” ~ James Baldwin

“It is a terrible, an inexorable law that one cannot deny the humanity of another without diminishing one’s own: in the face of one’s victim, one sees oneself.” ~ James Baldwin

“We are responsible for the world in which we find ourselves, if only because we are the only sentient force which can change it.” ~ James Baldwin

“Talent is insignificant. I know a lot of talented ruins. Beyond talent lie all the usual words: discipline, love, luck, but, most of all, endurance.” ~ James Baldwin

“People pay for what they do, and still more for what they have allowed themselves to become. And they pay for it very simply; by the lives they lead.” ~ James Baldwin

“You write in order to change the world.” ~ James Baldwin

“I will no longer take anyone’s word for my experience.” ~ James Baldwin

“The moment we break faith with one another, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.” ~ James Baldwin

“You’ve got to tell the world how to treat you. If the world tells you how you are going to be treated, you are in trouble.” ~ James Baldwin

“The interior life is a real life, and the intangible dreams of people have a tangible effect on the world.” ~ James Baldwin

“Passion is not friendly. It is arrogant, superbly contemptuous of all that is not itself, and, as they very definition of passion implies the impulse to freedom, it has a might intimidiating power. It contains a challenge. It contains an unspeakable hope.” ~ James Baldwin

“If you think too far ahead, if you even try to think too far ahead, you’ll never make it.” ~ James Baldwin

“You want to write a sentence as clean as a bone. That is the goal.” ~ James Baldwin

“A civilization is not destroyed by wicked people; it is not necessary that people be wicked but only that they be spineless.” ~ James Baldwin

“Precisely at the point when you begin to develop a conscience you must find yourself at war with your society.” ~ James Baldwin

“Neither love nor terror makes one blind: indifference makes one blind.” ~ James Baldwin

“The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions that have been hidden by the answers.” ~ James Baldwin

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read.” ~ James Baldwin

“For, while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard. There isn’t any other tale to tell, it’s the only light we’ve got in all this darkness.” ~ James Baldwin

“God be thanked for books! They are the voices of the distant and the dead.” ~ James Baldwin

“The place in which I’ll fit will not exist until I make it.” ~ James Baldwin

“I can’t be a pessimist, because I am alive.” ~ James Baldwin

“To ask questions of the universe, and then learn to live with those questions, is the way he achieves his own identity.” ~ James Baldwin

“And love will simply have no choice but to go into battle with space and time, and furthermore, to win.” ~ James Baldwin

“I can’t be a pessimist because I am alive. To be a pessimist means that you have agreed that human life is an academic matter. So, I am forced to be an optimist. I am forced to believe that we can survive, whatever we must survive.” ~ James Baldwin

“People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them.” ~ James Baldwin

“We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.” ~ James Baldwin

“The challenge is in the moment; the time is always now.” ~ James Baldwin

“There is never time in the future in which we will work out our salvation. The challenge is in the moment; the time is always now.” ~ James Baldwin

“Experience, which destroys innocence, also leads one back to it.” ~ James Baldwin

“The great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do.” ~ James Baldwin

“People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction, and anyone who insists on remaining in a state on innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster.” ~ James Baldwin

“I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.” ~ James Baldwin

“I can’t believe what you say, because I see what you do.” ~ James Baldwin

“Any real change implies the breakup of the world as one has always known it, the loss of all that gave one an identity, the end of safety.” ~ James Baldwin

“Remember, to hate, to be violent, is demeaning. It means you’re afraid of the other side of the coin – to love and be loved.” ~ James Baldwin

“James Joyce is right about history being a nightmare – but it may be that nightmare from which no one can awaken. People are trapped in history and history in trapped in them.” ~ James Baldwin

“To be black and conscious in America is to be in a constant state of rage.” ~ James Baldwin

“All art is a kind of confession, more or less oblique. All artists, if they are to survive, are forced, at last, to tell the whole story; to vomit the anguish up.” ~ James Baldwin

“Know from whence you came. If you know whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go.” ~ James Baldwin

“Nothing is more desirable than to be released from an affliction, but nothing is more frightening than to be divested of a crutch.” ~ James Baldwin

“Yr crown has been bought and paid for. All you have to do is put it on yr head.” ~ James Baldwin

“I think white gay people feel cheated because they were born, in principle, in a society in which they were supposed to be safe. The anomaly of their sexuality puts them in danger, unexpectedly.” ~ James Baldwin

“I am what time, circumstance, history, have made of me, certainly, but I am also, much more than that. So are we all.” ~ James Baldwin

“Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition.” ~ James Baldwin

“The real victim of bigotry is the white man who hides his weakness under his myth of superiority.” ~ James Baldwin

“It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.” ~ James Baldwin

“American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it.” ~ James Baldwin

“The past is what makes the present coherent, and the past will remain horrible for exactly as long as we refuse to assess it honestly.” ~ James Baldwin

“Recognizing a problem doesn’t always bring a solution, but until we recognize that problem, there can be no solution.” ~ James Baldwin

“Our dehumanization of the Negro then is indivisible from our dehumanization of ourselves; the loss of our own identity is the price we pay for our annulment of his.” ~ James Baldwin

“Freedom is not something that anybody can be given. Freedom is something people take, and people are as free as they want to be.” ~ James Baldwin

“To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.” ~ James Baldwin

“Life is more important than art; that’s what makes art important.” ~ James Baldwin

“People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction.” ~ James Baldwin

“There was no room in God’s army for the coward heart, no crown awaiting him who put mother or father, sister or brother, sweetheart or friend above God’s will. Let the church cry amen to this!” ~ James Baldwin

“But, when the chips are down, its better to be furious with someone you love, or frightened for someone you love, than be put through the merciless horror of being ashamed of someone you love.” ~ James Baldwin

“Those who say it can’t be done are usually interrupted by others doing it.” ~ James Baldwin

“The impossible is the least that one can demand.” ~ James Baldwin

“Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” ~ James Baldwin

“Writing is a political instrument.” ~ James Baldwin

“We do not trust educated people and rarely, alas, produce them, for we do not trust the independence of mind which alone makes a genuine education possible.” ~ James Baldwin

“It demands great spiritual resilience not to hate the hater whose foot is on your neck, and an even greater miracle of perception and charity not to teach your child to hate.” ~ James Baldwin

“Hatred is always self hatred, and there is something suicidal about it.” ~ James Baldwin

“People don’t have any mercy. They tear you limb from limb, in the name of love. Then, when you’re dead, when they’ve killed you by what they made you go through, they say you didn’t have any character. They weep big, bitter tears – not for you. For themselves, because they’ve lost their toy.” ~ James Baldwin

“When you’re writing, you’re trying to find out something which you don’t know. The whole language of writing for me is finding out what you don’t want to know, what you don’t want to find out. But something forces you to anyway.” ~ James Baldwin

“The role of the artist is exactly the same as the role of the lover. If I love you, I have to make you conscious of the things you don’t see.” ~ James Baldwin

“The wretched of the earth do not decide to become extinct, they resolve, on the contrary, to multiply: life is their weapon against life, life is all that they have.” ~ James Baldwin

“Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up.” ~ James Baldwin

“You know, it’s not the world that was my oppressor, because what the world does to you, if the world does it to you long enough and effectively enough, you begin to do to yourself.” ~ James Baldwin

“An identity would seem to be arrived at by the way in which the person faces and uses his experience.” ~ James Baldwin

“There are so many ways of being despicable it quite makes one’s head spin. But the way to be really despicable is to be contemptuous of other people’s pain.” ~ James Baldwin

“If you are going to be a writer there is nothing I can say to stop you; if you’re not going to be a writer nothing I can say will help you. What you really need at the beginning is somebody to let you know that the effort is real.” ~ James Baldwin

“I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” ~ James Baldwin

“A liberal: someone who thinks he knows more about your experience than you do.” ~ James Baldwin

“The power of the white world is threatened whenever a black man refuses to accept the white world’s definitions.” ~ James Baldwin

“To be sensual, I think, is to respect and rejoice in the force of life, of life itself, and to be present in all that one does, from the effort of loving to the making of bread.” ~ James Baldwin

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” ~ James Baldwin

“People can’t, unhappily, invent their mooring posts, their lovers and their friends, anymore than they can invent their parents. Life gives these and also takes them away and the great difficulty is to say Yes to life.” ~ James Baldwin

“Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.” ~ James Baldwin

“People can cry much easier than they can change.” ~ James Baldwin

“You cannot fix what you will not face.” ~ James Baldwin

“The American idea of racial progress is measured by how fast I become white.” ~ James Baldwin

“The paradox of education is precisely this – that as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated.” ~ James Baldwin

“If you’re afraid to die, you will not be able to live.” ~ James Baldwin

“If I am not what you say I am, then you are not who you think you are.” ~ James Baldwin

“What passes for identity in America is a series of myths about one’s heroic ancestors.” ~ James Baldwin

“Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.” ~ James Baldwin

“The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose.” ~ James Baldwin

“You have to decide who you are and force the world to deal with you, not with its idea of you.” ~ James Baldwin

“When a man asks himself what is meant by action he proves that he isn’t a man of action. Action is a lack of balance. In order to act you must be somewhat insane. A reasonably sensible man is satisfied with thinking.” ~ James Baldwin

“An identity is questioned only when it is menaced, as when the mighty begin to fall, or when the wretched begin to rise, or when the stranger enters the gates, never, thereafter, to be a stranger.” ~ James Baldwin

“It took many years of vomiting up all the filth I’d been taught about myself, and half-believed, before I was able to walk on the earth as though I had a right to be here.” ~ James Baldwin

“The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other, and children cling to us. The moment we cease to hold each other, the moment we break faith with one another, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.” ~ James Baldwin

“Trust life, and it will teach you, in joy and sorrow, all you need to know.” ~ James Baldwin

“Artists are here to disturb the peace.” ~ James Baldwin

“I’ve always believed that you can think positive just as well as you can think negative.” ~ James Baldwin

“You don’t need numbers; you need passion, and this is proven by the history of the world!” ~ James Baldwin

“The victim who is able to articulate the situation of the victim has ceased to be a victim: he or she has become a threat.” ~ James Baldwin

“The price one pays for pursuing any profession, or calling, is an intimate knowledge of its ugly side.” ~ James Baldwin

“Be careful what you set your heart upon – for it will surely be yours.” ~ James Baldwin

“In order to have a conversation with someone you must reveal yourself.” ~ James Baldwin

“For these are all our children, we will all profit by or pay for whatthey become.” ~ James Baldwin

“Love is like the lightning, and your maturity is signaled by the extent to which you can accept the dangers and the power and the beauty of love.” ~ James Baldwin

“If we do not now dare everything, the fulfillment of that prophecy, re-created from the Bible in song by a slave, is upon us: God gave Noah the rainbow sign. No more water, fire next time.” ~ James Baldwin

“You have to go the way your blood beats. If you don’t live the only life you have, you won’t live some other life, you won’t live any life at all.” ~ James Baldwin

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