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50 Best James Baldwin Quotes

James Baldwin Quotes: James Arthur Baldwin was an American novelist, playwright, essayist, poet, and activist. His essays, collected in Notes of a Native Son, explore intricacies of racial, sexual, and class distinctions in the Western society of the United States during the mid-twentieth century. We hope you enjoy our list of James Baldwin Quotes below.

Common Question About James Baldwin

What was James Baldwin’s education?

He graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx in 1942 but was otherwise self-taught.

What novels and plays did James Baldwin write?

James Baldwin’s novels included Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953), Giovanni’s Room (1956), Another Country (1962), and If Beale Street Could Talk (1974; film 2018). He wrote the plays The Amen Corner (1955) and Blues for Mister Charlie (1964).

What is James Baldwin known for?

 He wrote on the subject of race in America in novels, essays, and plays. 

Our Favorite James Baldwin Quotes

“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.”

“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.”

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

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

“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.”

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

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

“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.”

“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.”

“I can't believe what you say, because I see what you do.”

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

“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.”

“Love takes off the masks we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.”

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

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“People can cry much easier than they can change.”

“It is very nearly impossible to become an educated person in a country so distrustful of the independent mind.”

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

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

“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.”

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

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

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

“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.”

“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”

“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.”

“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”

“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.”

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

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“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.”

“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.”

“Confusion is a luxury which only the very, very young can possibly afford and you are not that young anymore”

“Whoever debases others is debasing himself.”

“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.”

“I often wonder what I'd do if there weren't any books in the world.”

“The place in which I'll fit will not exist until I make it.”

“Hatred, which could destroy so much, never failed to destroy the man who hated, and this was an immutable law.”

“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.”

“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.”

“Do I really want to be integrated into a burning house?”

“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.”

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

“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.”

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

“The artistic image is not intended to represent the thing itself, but, rather, the reality of the force the thing contains.”

“Our crown has already been bought and paid for. All we have to do is wear it”

“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. ”

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

“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?”

“No man is a devil in his own mind.”

“Nakedness has no color: this can come as news only to those who have never covered, or been covered by, another naked human being.”

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