Counted among the most notable American writers of the mid-20th century, James Baldwin became a popular figure among readers, thanks to his novels, essays, and plays, which so beautifully decoded the class, racial, and sexual distinctions present in Western societies, most prominently in North America, at the time. Even though these distinctions were obvious, only a handful of people could successfully translate it into their literary works.
The novels and plays written by Baldwin were outstanding as he took the time to discuss in detail the glaring yet untold truth. This article aims at bringing you some James Baldwin quotes drawn from his spectacular works.
Meanwhile, James Baldwin also shed some light on some of the fundamental questions that bothered him which received no answers amid complex social and psychological pressures that stood in the way of the integration of African Americans as well as gays and bisexuals.
Notes of a Native Son is the most important/best work of Baldwin’s career due to the fact that it provided black experience in America. Other of his works are Nobody Knows My Name, The Devil Finds, The Fire Next Time, No Name in the Street, Another Country, and The Devil Finds Work
In addition to being an iconic writer, James Baldwin was also an eloquent speaker and he put it to good use in speaking about the pain and struggle black Americans were forced to endure.
He also became a civil rights activist. To have a glimpse of Baldwin’s ideology and philosophy, read the James Baldwin quotes below.
100 Awesome James Baldwin Quotes To Get You Through The Day
1. It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.
2. People can cry much easier than they can change.
3. Everybody’s journey is individual. If you fall in love with a boy, you fall in love with a boy. The fact that many Americans consider it a disease says more about them than it does about homosexuality.
4. Neither love nor terror makes one blind: indifference makes one blind.
5. Hatred is always self-hatred, and there is something suicidal about it.
6. If you cannot love me, I will die. Before you came I wanted to die, I have told you many times. It is cruel to have made me want to live only to make my death more bloody.
7. Everyone wishes to be loved, but in the event, nearly no one can bear it. Everyone desires love but also finds it impossible to believe that he deserves it.
8. American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it.
9. People are too various to be treated so lightly. I am too various to be trusted.
10. Americans should never come to Europe,’ she said, and tried to laugh and began to cry, ‘it means they never can be happy again. What’s the good of an American who isn’t happy? Happiness was all we had.
11. 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.
12. I can’t believe what you say, because I see what you do.
13. You write in order to change the world … if you alter, even by a millimeter, the way people look at reality, then you can change it.
14. It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.
15. 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.
16. 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.
17. 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.
18. For nothing is more unbearable, once one has it, than freedom.
19. With everything in me screaming No! yet the sum of me sighed Yes.
20. There are people in the world for whom “coming along” is a perpetual process, people who are destined never to arrive.
21. Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.
22. I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.
23. 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.
24. Trust life, and it will teach you, in joy and sorrow, all you need to know.
25. Whoever debases others is debasing himself.
26. Our crown has already been bought and paid for. All we have to do is wear it
27. How can one respect, let alone adopt, the values of a people who do not, on any level whatever, live the way they say they do, or the way they say they should?
28. I am what time, circumstance, history, have made of me, certainly, but I am also so much more than that. So are we all.
29. I want to be an honest man and a good writer.
30. 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.
31. Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.
32. Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.
33. People who treat other people as less than human must not be surprised when the bread they have cast on the waters comes floating back to them, poisoned.
34. If the concept of God has any validity or any use, it can only be to make us larger, freer, and more loving. If God cannot do this, then it is time we got rid of Him.
35. 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.
36. People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them.
37. Do I really want to be integrated into a burning house?
38. Freaks are called freaks and are treated as they are treated – in the main, abominably – because they are human beings who cause to echo, deep within us, our most profound terrors and desires.
39. We cannot discuss the state of our minorities until we first have a sense of what we are, who we are, what our goals are, and what we take life to be.
40. Whose little boy are you?
41. 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.
42. 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.
43. 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.
44. Nakedness has no color: this can come as news only to those who have never covered, or been covered by, another naked human being.
45. If you’re treated a certain way you become a certain kind of person. If certain things are described to you as being real they’re real for you whether they’re real or not.
46. When you’re writing you’re trying to find out something which you don’t know.
47. There are too many things we do not wish to know about ourselves. People are not, for example, terribly anxious to be equal (equal, after all, to what and to whom?) but they love the idea of being superior.
48. Those kids aren’t dumb. But the people who run these schools want to make sure they don’t get smart: they are really teaching the kids to be slaves.
49. Artists are here to disturb the peace.
50. Money, it turned out, was exactly like sex, you thought of nothing else if you didn’t have it and thought of other things if you did.
51. Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition.
52. It is very nearly impossible to become an educated person in a country so distrustful of the independent mind.
53. You don’t have a home until you leave it and then, when you have left it, you never can go back.
54. Life is tragic simply because the earth turns and the sun inexorably rises and sets, and one day, for each of us, the sun will go down for the last, last time.
55. Hatred, which could destroy so much, never failed to destroy the man who hated, and this was an immutable law.
56. 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.
57. The place in which I’ll fit will not exist until I make it.
58. Any writer, I suppose, feels that the world into which he was born is nothing less than a conspiracy against the cultivation of his talent.
59. To accept one’s past – one’s history – is not the same things as drowning in it. An invented past can never be used; it cracks and crumbles under the pressures of life like clay in a season of drought.
60. The world is before you, and you need not take it or leave it as it was when you came in.
61. Freedom is not something that anybody can be given. Freedom is something people take, and people are as free as they want to be.
62. Know from whence you came. If you know whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go.
63. 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.
64. The artistic image is not intended to represent the thing itself, but, rather, the reality of the force the thing contains.
65. The price one pays for pursuing any profession or calling is an intimate knowledge of its ugly side.
66. Education is indoctrination if you’re white – subjugation if you’re black.
67. It is astonishing the lengths to which a person, or a people, will go in order to avoid a truthful mirror.
68. The American ideal is, after all, that everyone should be as much alike as possible.
69. No one is more dangerous than he who imagines himself pure in heart: for his purity, by definition, is unassailable
70. You took the best, so why not take the rest?
71. 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.
72. The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose.
73. Please, try to remember that what they believe, as well as what they do and cause you to endure does not testify to your inferiority but to their inhumanity
74. Confusion is a luxury which only the very, very young can possibly afford and you are not that young anymore
75. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.
76. I often wonder what I’d do if there weren’t any books in the world.
77. The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions that have been hidden by the answers.
78. If I am not what you say I am, then you are not who you think you are.
79. Precisely at the point when you begin to develop a conscience, you must find yourself at war with your society.
80. There are too many things we do not wish to know about ourselves.
81. Love takes off the masks we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.
82. True rebels after all, are as rare as true lovers, and in both cases, to mistake a fever for passion can destroy one’s life
83. Nothing is more desirable than to be released from an affliction, but nothing is more frightening than to be divested of a crutch.
84. 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.
85. People who believe that they are strong-willed and the masters of their destiny can only continue to believe this by becoming specialists in self-deception.
86. Most of us are about as eager to be changed as we were to be born, and go through our changes in a similar state of shock.
87. The impossible is the least that one can demand.
88. There is a fearful splendor in absolute desolation.
89. There are few things under heaven more unnerving than the silent, accumulating contempt and hatred of a people.
90. The power of the white world is threatened whenever a black man refuses to accept the white world’s definitions.
91. 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.
92. To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.
93. Those who say it can’t be done are usually interrupted by others doing it.
94. No man is a devil in his own mind.
95. Love him and let him love you. Dou you think anything else under heaven really matters.
96. History is not a procession of illustrious people. It’s about what happens to a people. Millions of anonymous people is what history is about.
97. Yr crown has been bought and paid for. All you have to do is put it on yr head
98. Literature is indispensable to the world. The world changes according to the way people see it, and if you alter, even by a millimeter, the way a person looks at reality, then you can change it.
99. For these are all our children, we will all profit by or pay for what they become.
100. Allegiance, after all, has to work two ways; and one can grow weary of an allegiance which is not reciprocal.
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