Best 222 of James Baldwin quotes - MyQuotes

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James Baldwin
By Anonym 18 Sep

James Baldwin

The Americans have no sense of doom, none whatever. They do not recognize doom when they see it.

By Anonym 19 Sep

James Baldwin

The way to be really despicable is to be contemptuous of other people's pain.

By Anonym 18 Sep

James Baldwin

The details and symbols of your life have been deliberately constructed to make you believe what white people say about you. 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 and fear.

By Anonym 15 Sep

James Baldwin

And what the white students had not expected to let themselves in for, when boarding the Freedom Train, was the realisation that the black situation in America was but one aspect of the fraudulent nature of American life. They had not expected to be forced to judge their parents, their elders, and their antecedents, so harshly, and they had not realised how cheaply, after all, the rulers of the republic held their white lives to be. Coming to the defence of the rejected and the destitute, they were confronted with the extent of their own alienation, and the unimaginable dimensions of their own poverty. They were privileged and secure only so long as they did, in effect, what they were told: but they had been raised to believe that they were free.

By Anonym 17 Sep

James Baldwin

...love brought you here. If you trusted love this far, don't panic now.

By Anonym 16 Sep

James Baldwin

In Harlem, Negro policemen are feared more than whites, for they have more to prove and fewer ways to prove it

By Anonym 16 Sep

James Baldwin

I don't give a damn if there's any hope for them or not. But I know that I am not about to be bugged by any more white jokers who still can't figure out whether I'm human or not. If they don't know, baby, sad on them, and I hope they drop dead slowly, in great pain.

By Anonym 20 Sep

James Baldwin

Whereas Jesus and his disciples were distrusted by the state largely because they respected the poor and shared everything, the fundamentalists of the present hour would appear not to know that the poor exist.

By Anonym 16 Sep

James Baldwin

It is not permissible that the authors of devastation should be innocent. It is the innocence which constitutes the crime.

By Anonym 19 Sep

James Baldwin

Ultimately, the artist and the revolutionary function as they function, and pay whatever dues they must pay behind it because they are both possessed by a vision, and they do not so much follow this vision as find themselves driven by it. Otherwise, they could never endure, much less embrace, the lives they are compelled to lead.

By Anonym 19 Sep

James Baldwin

We go down the hall again, thank heaven, to my drink.

By Anonym 19 Sep

James Baldwin

We cannot escape our origins, however hard we try, those origins which contain the key -could we but find it- to all we later become

By Anonym 15 Sep

James Baldwin

Anyway, I have long had a very definite tendency to tune out the moment I come anywhere near either a pulpit or a soapbox.

By Anonym 15 Sep

James Baldwin

A mob is not autonomous: it executes the real will of the people who rule the State. The slaughter in Birmingham, Alabama, for example, was not merely the action of a mob.

By Anonym 15 Sep

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. And at such a moment, unable to see and not daring to imagine what the future will now bring forth, one clings to what one knew, or dreamed that one possessed. Yet, it is only when a man is able, without bitterness or self-pity, to surrender a dream he has long possessed that he is set free - he has set himself free - for higher dreams, for greater privileges.

By Anonym 20 Sep

James Baldwin

When he died I had been away from home for a little over a year. In that year I had had time to become aware of the meaning of all my father’s bitter warnings, had discovered the secret of his proudly pursed lips and rigid carriage: I had discovered the weight of white people in the world. I saw that this had been for my ancestors and now would be for me an awful thing to live with and that the bitterness which had helped to kill my father could also kill me.

By Anonym 16 Sep

James Baldwin

It was his hatred and his intelligence that he cherished, the one feeding the other.

By Anonym 18 Sep

James Baldwin

t can be objected that I am speaking of political freedom in spiritual terms, but the political institutions of any nation are always menaced and are ultimately controlled by the spiritual state of that nation. We are controlled here by our confusion, far more than we know, and the American dream has therefore become something much more closely resembling a nightmare, on the private, domestic, and international levels. Privately, we cannot stand our lives and dare not examine them; domestically, we take no responsibility for (and no pride in) what goes on in our country; and, internationally, for many millions of people, we are an unmitigated disaster.

By Anonym 16 Sep

James Baldwin

I don't believe there's a white man in this country, baby, who can get his dick hard, without he hear some nigger moan.

By Anonym 19 Sep

James Baldwin

There is no reason for you to try to become like white people and there is no basis whatever for their impertinent assumption that they must accept you. The terrible thing, old buddy, is that you must accept them. And I mean that very seriously. You must accept them and accept them with love. For these innocent people have no other hope. They are, in effect, still trapped in a history which they do not understand; and until they understand it, they cannot be released from it. They have had to believe for many years, and for innumerable reasons, that black men are inferior to white men. Many of them, indeed, know better, but, as you will discover, people find it very difficult to act on what they know.

By Anonym 17 Sep

James Baldwin

Only a man can see in the face of a woman the girl she was. It is a secret which can be revealed only to a particular man, and, then, only at his insistence. But men have no secrets, except from women, and never grow up in the way women do. It is very much harder, and it takes much longer, for a man to grow up, and he could never do it at all without women. This is a mystery which can terrify and immobilize a woman, and it is always the key to her deepest distress. She must watch and guide, but he must lead, and he will always appear to be giving far more of his real attention to his comrades than he is giving to her. But that noisy, outward openness of men with each other enables them to deal with the silence and secrecy of women, that silence and secrecy which contains the truth of a man, and releases it. I suppose that the root of the resentment—a resentment which hides a bottomless terror—has to do with the fact that a woman is tremendously controlled by what the man’s imagination makes of her—literally, hour by hour, day by day; so she becomes a woman. But a man exists in his own imagination, and can never be at the mercy of a woman’s.—Anyway, in this fucked up time and place, the whole thing becomes ridiculous when you realize that women are supposed to be more imaginative than men. This is an idea dreamed up by men, and it proves exactly the contrary. The truth is that dealing with the reality of men leaves a woman very little time, or need, for imagination. And you can get very fucked up, here, once you take seriously the notion that a man who is not afraid to trust his imagination (which is all that men have ever trusted) if effeminate. It says a lot about this country, because, of course, if all you want to do is make money, the very last thing you need is imagination. Or women, for that matter: or men.

By Anonym 17 Sep

James Baldwin

Maybe it’s because you see people differently than you saw them before your trouble started. Maybe you wonder about them more, but in a different way, and this makes them very strange to you. Maybe you get scared and numb, because you don’t know if you can depend on people for anything, anymore.

By Anonym 16 Sep

James Baldwin

I do a lot of rewriting. It’s very painful.

By Anonym 19 Sep

James Baldwin

The person who distrusts himself has no touchstone for reality - for this touchstone can be only oneself. Such a person interpose between himself and reality nothing less than a labyrinth of attitudes. And these attitudes, furthermore, though the person is usually unaware of it (is unaware of so much), are historical and public attitudes.

By Anonym 16 Sep

James Baldwin

I must—to be honest—add that my ministry almost certainly helped me through my adolescence by giving me something larger than myself to be frightened about.

By Anonym 16 Sep

James Baldwin

I was just as black as I had been the day that I was born. Therefore, when I faced a congregation, it began to take all the strength I had not to stammer, not to curse, not to tell them to throw away their Bibles and get off their knees and go home and organize, for example, a rent strike. When I watched all the children, their copper, brown, and beige faces staring up at me as I taught Sunday school, I felt that I was committing a crime in talking about the gentle Jesus, in telling them to reconcile themselves to their misery on earth in order to gain the crown of eternal life. Were only Negroes to gain this crown? Was Heaven, then, to be merely another ghetto?

By Anonym 17 Sep

James Baldwin

On each piece of paper I found addresses, telephone numbers, memos of various rendezvous made and kept—or perhaps not kept—people met and remembered, or perhaps not remembered, hopes probably not fulfilled: certainly not fulfilled, or I would not have been standing on that street corner.

By Anonym 15 Sep

James Baldwin

About my interests: I don’t know if I have any, unless the morbid desire to own a sixteen-millimeter camera and make experimental movies can be so classified. Otherwise, I love to eat and drink – it’s my melancholy conviction that I’ve scarcely ever had enough to eat (this is because it’s impossible to eat enough if you’re worried about the next meal) – and I love to argue with people who do not disagree with me too profoundly, and I love to laugh. I do not like bohemia, or bohemians, I do not like people whose principal aim is pleasure, and I do not like people who are earnest about anything. I don’t like people who like me because I’m a Negro; neither do I like people who find in the same accident grounds for contempt. 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. I think all theories are suspect, that the finest principles may have to be modified, or may even be pulverized by the demands of life, and that one must find, therefore, one’s own moral center and move through the world hoping that this center will guide one aright. I consider that I have many responsibilities, but none greater than this: to last, as Hemingway says, and get my work done.

By Anonym 16 Sep

James Baldwin

In benighted, incompetent Africa, I had never encountered an orphan: the American streets resembled nothing so much as one vast, howling, unprecedented orphanage. It has been vivid to me for many years that what we call a race problem here is not a race problem at all: to keep calling it that is a way of avoiding the problem. The problem is rooted in the question of how one treats one's flesh and blood, especially one's children.

By Anonym 16 Sep

James Baldwin

I do not know what I would do if you left me." For the first time I felt the suggestion of a threat in his voice—or I put it there. "I have been alone so long—I do not think I would be able to live if I had to be alone again.

By Anonym 16 Sep

James Baldwin

It’s funny about people. Just before something happens, you almost know what it is. You do know what it is, I believe. You just haven’t had the time—and now you won’t have the time—to say it to yourself.

By Anonym 16 Sep

James Baldwin

I don’t know any writers who don’t drink.

By Anonym 19 Sep

James Baldwin

Then the door is before him. There is darkness all around him, there is silence in him. Then the door opens and he stands alone, the whole world falling away from him. And the brief corner of the sky seems to be shrieking, though he does not hear a sound. Then the earth tilts, he is thrown forward on his face in darkness, and his journey begins.

By Anonym 16 Sep

James Baldwin

Elisha,' he said, 'no matter what happens to me, where I go, what folks say about me, no matter what anybody says, you remember - please remember - I was saved. I was there.

By Anonym 17 Sep

James Baldwin

One of these days," he said. "Everything bad will happen—one of these days.

By Anonym 18 Sep

James Baldwin

People evolve a language in order to describe and thus control their circumstances, or in order not to be submerged by a reality that they cannot articulate.

By Anonym 19 Sep

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.

By Anonym 16 Sep

James Baldwin

Every man in the chapel hoped that when his hour came he, too, would be eulogized, which is to say forgiven, and that all of his lapses, greeds, errors, and strayings from the truth would be invested with coherence and looked upon with charity. This was perhaps the last thing humans could give each other and it was what they demanded, after all, of the Lord.

By Anonym 18 Sep

James Baldwin

The American soil is full of corpses of my ancestors– through 400 years and at least three wars. Why is my freedom, my citizenship, in question now?

By Anonym 16 Sep

James Baldwin

He had been bruised, so to speak, so badly that the eyes of strangers lacerated him like salt.

By Anonym 20 Sep

James Baldwin

You know and I know that the country is celebrating one hundred years of freedom one hundred years too early. We cannot be free until they are free.

By Anonym 16 Sep

James Baldwin

If one wishes to be instructed--not that anyone does--concerning the treacherous role that memory plays in a human life, consider how relentlessly the water of memory refuses to break, how it impedes that journey into the air of time. Time: the whisper beneath that word is death. With this unanswerable weight hanging heavier and heavier over one's head, the vision becomes cloudy, nothing is what it seems... How then, can I trust my memory concerning that particular Sunday afternoon?...Beneath the face of anyone you ever loved for true--anyone you love, you will always love, love is not at the mercy of time and it does not recognize death, they are strangers to each other--beneath the face of the beloved, however ancient, ruined, and scarred, is the face of the baby your love once was, and will always be, for you. Love serves, then, if memory doesn't, and passion, apart from its tense relation to agony, labors beneath the shadow of death. Passion is terrifying, it can rock you, change you, bring your head under, as when a wind rises from the bottom of the sea, and you're out there in the craft of your mortality, alone.

By Anonym 15 Sep

James Baldwin

Beyond talent lie all the usual words: discipline, love, luck, but, most of all, endurance.

By Anonym 16 Sep

James Baldwin

If the hope of giving is to love the living, the giver risks madness in the act of giving.

By Anonym 17 Sep

James Baldwin

My father's attitude was that this was but an inevitable phase of my growing up and he affected to take it lightly. But beneath his jocular, boys-together air, he was at a loss, he was frightened. Perhaps he had supposed that my growing up would bring us closer together— whereas, now that he was trying to find out something about me, I was in full flight from him. I did not want him to know me. I did not want anyone to know me. And then, again, I was undergoing with my father what the very young inevitably undergo with their elders: I was beginning to judge him. And the very harshness of this judgment, which broke my heart, revealed, though I could not have said it then, how much I had loved him, how that love, along with my innocence, was dying.

By Anonym 19 Sep

James Baldwin

There is often something beautiful, there is always something awful, in the spectacle of a a person who has lost one of his faculties, a faculty he never questioned until it was gone, and who struggles to recover it. Yet people remain people, on crutches or indeed on deathbeds....

By Anonym 15 Sep

James Baldwin

But the conquest of the physical world is not man’s only duty. He is also enjoined to conquer the great wilderness of himself. The precise role of the artist, then, is to illuminate that darkness, blaze roads through that vast forest, so that we will not, in all our doing, lose sight of its purpose, which is, after all, to make the world a more human dwelling place.

By Anonym 17 Sep

James Baldwin

One would never defeat one's circumstances by working and saving one's pennies; one would never, by working, acquire that many pennies, and, besides, the social treatment accorded even the most successful Negroes proved that one needed, in order to be free, something more than a bank account. One needed a handle, a lever, a means of inspiring fear. It was absolutely clear that the police would whip you and take you in as long as they could get away with it, and that everyone else—housewives, taxi-drivers, elevator boys, dishwashers, bartenders, lawyers, judges, doctors, and grocers—would never, by the operation of any generous human feeling, cease to use you as an outlet for his frustrations and hostilities.

By Anonym 16 Sep

James Baldwin

For, without love, pleasure withers quickly, becomes a foul taste on the palate, and pleasure’s inventions are soon exhausted. There must be a soul within the body you are holding, a soul which you are striving to meet, a soul which is striving to meet yours.

By Anonym 19 Sep

James Baldwin

The summer ended. Day by day, and taking its time, the summer ended. The noises in the street began to change, diminish, voices became fewer, the music sparse. Daily, blocks and blocks of children were spirited away. Grownups retreated from the streets, into the houses. Adolescents moved from the sidewalk to the stoop to the hallway to the stairs, and rooftops were abandoned. Such trees as there were allowed their leaves to fall - they fell unnoticed - seeming to promise, not without bitterness, to endure another year. At night, from a distance, the parks and playgrounds seemed inhabited by fireflies, and the night came sooner, inched in closer, fell with a greater weight. The sound of the alarm clock conquered the sound of the tambourine, the houses put on their winter faces. The houses stared down a bitter landscape, seeming, not without bitterness, to have resolved to endure another year.