james baldwin quotes

Powerful James Baldwin Quotes

100+ James Baldwin Quote

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.

– James Baldwin

I Can’t Believe What You Say, Because I See What You Do.

– James Baldwin

You Think Your Pain And Your Heartbreak Are Unprecedented In The History Of The World, But Then You Read. 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, Who Had Ever Been Alive.

– 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

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

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

Not Everything That Is Faced Can Be Changed, But Nothing Can Be Changed Until It Is Faced.

– James Baldwin

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.

– James Baldwin

Perhaps Home Is Not A Place But Simply An Irrevocable Condition.

– James Baldwin

You Think Your Pain And Your Heartbreak Are Unprecedented In The History Of The World, But Then You Read.

– James Baldwin

Hatred, Which Could Destroy So Much, Never Failed To Destroy The Man Who Hated, And This Was An Immutable Law.

– James Baldwin

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. Perhaps The Whole Root Of Our Trouble, The Human Trouble, Is That We Will Sacrifice All The Beauty Of Our Lives, Will Imprison Ourselves In Totems, Taboos, Crosses, Blood Sacrifices, Steeples, Mosques, Races, Armies, Flags, Nations, In Order To Deny The Fact Of Death, The Only Fact We Have. It Seems To Me That One Ought To Rejoice In The Fact Of Death-ought To Decide, Indeed, To Earn One’s Death By Confronting With Passion The Conundrum Of Life. One Is Responsible For Life: It Is The Small Beacon In That Terrifying Darkness From Which We Come And To Which We Shall Return.

– James Baldwin

The Most Dangerous Creation Of Any Society Is The Man Who Has Nothing To Lose.

– James Baldwin

Anyone Who Has Ever Struggled With Poverty Knows How Extremely Expensive It Is To Be Poor.

– James Baldwin

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.

– James Baldwin

Children Have Never Been Very Good At Listening To Their Elders, But They Have Never Failed To Imitate Them.

– James Baldwin

Nakedness Has No Color This Can Come As News Only To Those Who Have Never Covered, Or Been Covered By, Another Naked Human Being.

– 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

People Can’t Unhappily, Invent Their Mooring Posts, Their Lovers And Their Friends, Any More 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 The Masks We Fear We Cannot Live Without And Know We Cannot Live Within.

– James Baldwin

Neither Love Nor Terror Makes One Blind: Indifference Makes One Blind.

– 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 Growing Up.

– James Baldwin

A Liberal, Someone Who Thinks He Knows More About Your Experience Than You Do.

– 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

All I Know About Music Is That Not Many People Ever Really Hear It. And Even Then, On The Rare Occasions When Something Opens Within, And The Music Enters, What We Mainly Hear, Or Hear Corroborated, Are Personal, Private, Vanishing Evocations.

– James Baldwin

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.

– James Baldwin

To Accept One’s Past-one’s History Is Not The Same Thing As Drowning In It. It Is Learning How To Use It. An Invented Past Can Never Be Used. It Cracks And Crumbles Under The Pressures Of Life Like Clay In A Season Of Drought.

– James Baldwin

Love Him And Let Him Love You. Do You Think Anything Else Under Heaven Really Matters?

– James Baldwin

I Can’t Believe What You Say, Because I See What You Do.

– James Baldwin

It Is Certain, In Any Case, That Ignorance, Allied With Power, Is The Most Ferocious Enemy Justice Can Have.

– 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

Love Takes Off The Masks That We Fear We Cannot Live Without And Know We Cannot Live Within. I Use The Word ‘Love’ Here Not Merely In The Personal Sense But As A State Of Being, Or A State Of Grace Not In The Infantile American Sense Of Being Made Happy But In The Tough And Universal Sense Of Quest And Daring And Growth.

– James Baldwin

The Purpose Of Education Is To Create In A Person The Ability To Look At The World For Himself, To Make His Own Decisions.

– 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

People Can Cry Much Easier Than They Can Change.

– 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

It Is Very Nearly Impossible To Become An Educated Person In A Country So Distrustful Of The Independent Mind.

– 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

Precisely At The Point When You Begin To Develop A Conscience, You Must Find Yourself At War With Your Society.

– 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

You Don’t Have A Home Until You Leave It And Then, When You Have Left It, You Never Can Go Back.

– 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

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

Know From Whence You Came. If You Know Whence You Came, There Are Absolutely No Limitations To Where You Can Go.

– 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

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.

– 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

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

Tell Me He Said, ‘What Is This Thing About Time?’ Why Is It Better To Be Late Than Early? People Are Always Saying, We Must Wait, We Must Wait. What Are They Waiting For?.

– James Baldwin

Well, I Guess People Wait In Order To Make Sure Of What They Feel. And When You Have Waited Has It Made You Sure?.

– James Baldwin

To Accept One’s Past One’s History Is Not The Same Thing As Drowning In It. It’s Learning How To Use It. An Invented Past Can Never Be Used In Cracks And Crumbles Under The Pressures Of Life Like Clay In A Season Of Drought.

– James Baldwin

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.

– 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 Turned Himself Into A Monster.

– James Baldwin

Confusion Is A Luxury Which Only The Very, Very Young Can Possibly Afford And You Are Not That Young Anymore.

– James Baldwin

Whoever Debases Others Is Debasing Himself.

– 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

I Often Wonder What I’d Do If There Weren’t Any Books In The World.

– 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

Those Who Say It Can’t Be Done Are Usually Interrupted By Others Doing It.

– James Baldwin

The Place In Which I’ll Fit Will Not Exist Until I Make It.

– James Baldwin

Perhaps, As We Say In America, I Wanted To Find Myself. This Is An Interesting Phrase, Not Current As Far As I Know In The Language Of Any Other People, Which Certainly Does Not Mean What It Says But Betrays A Nagging Suspicion That Something Has Been Misplaced. I Think Now That If I Had Any Intimation That The Self I Was Going To Find Would Turn Out To Be Only The Same Self From Which I Had Spent So Much Time In Flight, I Would Have Stayed At Home.

– James Baldwin

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.

– 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 Breaking Of Bread.

– James Baldwin

Do I Really Want To Be Integrated Into A Burning House?.

– James Baldwin

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.

– James Baldwin

Somebody, Said Jacques, Your Father Or Mine, Should Have Told Us That Not Many People Have Ever Died Of Love. But Multitudes Have Perished, And Are Perishing Every Hour – And In The Oddest Places For The Lack Of It.

– James Baldwin

Most Of Us, No Matter What We Say, Are Walking In The Dark, Whistling In The Dark. Nobody Knows What Is Going To Happen To Him From One Moment To The Next, Or How One Will Bear It. This Is Irreducible. And It’s True Of Everybody. Now, It Is True That The Nature Of Society Is To Create, Among Its Citizens, An Illusion Of Safety; But It Is Also Absolutely True That The Safety Is Always Necessarily An Illusion. Artists Are Here To Disturb The Peace.

– James Baldwin

The Subtle And Deadly Change Of Heart That Might Occur In You Would Be Involved With The Realization That A Civilization Is Not Destroyed By Wicked People; It Is Not Necessary That People Be Wicked But Only That They Be Spineless.

– James Baldwin

Trust Life, And It Will Teach You, In Joy And Sorrow, All You Need To Know.

– James Baldwin

The Artistic Image Is Not Intended To Represent The Thing Itself, But, Rather, The Reality Of The Force The Thing Contains.

– James Baldwin

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.

– James Baldwin

Our Crown Has Already Been Bought And Paid For. All We Have To Do Is Wear It.

– James Baldwin

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?.

– James Baldwin

The Price One Pays For Pursuing Any Profession Or Calling Is An Intimate Knowledge Of Its Ugly Side.

– James Baldwin

People Are Trapped In History And History Is Trapped In Them.

– James Baldwin

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.

– James Baldwin

I Thought Of The People Before Me Who Had Looked Down At The River And Gone To Sleep Beneath It. I Wondered About Them. I Wondered How They Had Done It. It The Physical Act.

– James Baldwin

I Simply Wondered About The Dead Because Their Days Had Ended And I Did Not Know How I Would Get Through Mine.

– James Baldwin

No Man Is A Devil In His Own Mind.

– James Baldwin

Nakedness Has No Color: This Can Come As News Only To Those Who Have Never Covered, Or Been Covered By, Another Naked Human Being.

– 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

If A Society Permits One Portion Of Its Citizenry To Be Menaced Or Destroyed, Then, Very Soon, No One In That Society Is Safe. The Forces Thus Released In The People Can Never Be Held In Check, But Run Their Devouring Course, Destroying The Very Foundations Which It Was Imagined They Would Save.

– James Baldwin

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.

– James Baldwin

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.

– 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

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.

– 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 Intimidating Power. It Contains A Challenge. It Contains An Unspeakable Hope.

– James Baldwin

The Purpose Of Art Is To Lay Bare The Questions That Have Been Hidden By The Answers.

– James Baldwin

Nobody Is More Dangerous Than He Who Imagines Himself Pure In Heart; For His Purity, By Definition, Is Unassailable.

– 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

The Impossible Is The Least That One Can Demand.

– James Baldwin

I Am What Time, Circumstance, History, Have Made Of Me, Certainly, But I’m Also, Much More Than That. So Are We All?.

– James Baldwin

We Are Very Cruelly Trapped Between What We Would Like To Be And What We Actually Are. And We Cannot Possibly Become What We Would Like To Be Until We Are Willing To Ask Ourselves Just Why The Lives We Lead On This Continent Are Mainly So Empty, So Tame, And So Ugly.

– James Baldwin

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