Top 100

Top 500 James Baldwin Quotes (2024 Update)
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James Baldwin Quote: “I conceive of God, in fact, as a means of liberation and not a means to control others.”
James Baldwin Quote: “A child cannot be taught by anyone who despises him, and a child cannot afford to be fooled.”
James Baldwin Quote: “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 Quote: “But our humanity is our burden, our life; we need not battle for it; we need only to do what is infinitely more difficult – that is, accept it.”
James Baldwin Quote: “This world is white no longer, and it will never be white again.”
James Baldwin Quote: “If you know whence you came, there is really no limit to where you can go.”
James Baldwin Quote: “I really mean that there was no love in the church. It was a mask for hatred and self-hatred and despair.”
James Baldwin Quote: “Now, as then, we find ourselves bound, first without, then within, by the nature of our categorization. And escape is not effected through a bitter railing against this trap; it is as though this very striving were the only motion needed to spring the trap upon us. We take our shape, it is true, within and against that cage of reality bequeathed us at our birth; and yet it is precisely through our dependence on this reality that we are most endlessly betrayed.”
James Baldwin Quote: “I was guilty and irritated and full of love and pain. I wanted to kick him and I wanted to take him in my arms.”
James Baldwin Quote: “There are people in the world for whom “coming along” is a perpetual process, people who are destined never to arrive.”
James Baldwin Quote: “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 that 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.”
James Baldwin Quote: “We take our shape, it is true, within and against that cage of reality bequeathed us at our birth; and yet it is precisely through our dependence on this reality that we are most endlessly betrayed.”
James Baldwin Quote: “You were born where you were born and faced the future that you faced because you were black and for no other reason. The limits of your ambition were, thus, expected to be set forever. You were born into a society which spelled out with brutal clarity, and in as many ways as possible, that you were a worthless human being. You are not expected to aspire to excellence: you were expected to make peace with mediocrity.”
James Baldwin Quote: “The people in Harlem know they are living there because white people do not think they are good enough to live anywhere else. No amount of “improvement” can sweeten this fact. Whatever money is now being earmarked to improve this, or any other ghetto, might as well be burnt. A ghetto can be improved in one way only: out of existence.”
James Baldwin Quote: “After departure, only invisible things are left, perhaps the life of the world is held together by invisible chains of memory and loss and love. So many things, so many people, depart! And we can only repossess them in our minds.”
James Baldwin Quote: “A ghetto can be improved in one way only: out of existence.”
James Baldwin Quote: “Out of this incredible brutality, we get the myth of the happy darky and Gone With the Wind. And the North Americans appear to believe these legends, which they have created and which absolutely nothing in reality corroborates, until today. And when these legends are attacked, as is happening now – all over a globe which has never been and never will be White – my countrymen become childishly vindictive and unutterably dangerous. The.”
James Baldwin Quote: “There is something fantastic in the spectacle I now present to myself of having run so far, so hard, across the ocean even, only to find myself brought up short once more before the bulldog in my own backyard – the yard, in the meantime, having grown smaller and the bulldog bigger.”
James Baldwin Quote: “The poor are always crossing the Sahara. And the lawyers and bondsmen and all that crowd circle around the poor, exactly like vultures. Of course, they’re not any richer than the poor, really, that’s why they’ve turned into vultures, scavengers, indecent garbage men, and I’m talking about the black cats, too, who, in so many ways, are worse.”
James Baldwin Quote: “It is impossible to pretend that you are not heir to, and therefore, however inadequately or unwillingly, responsible to, and for, the time and place that give you life – without becoming, at very best, a dangerously disoriented human being.”
James Baldwin Quote: “One of the most terrible, most mysterious things about a life is that a warning can be heeded only in retrospect: too late.”
James Baldwin Quote: “You were born where you were born and faced the future that you faced because you were black and for no other reason. The limits of your ambition were, thus expected to be set forever... You were not expected to aspire to excellence: you were expected to make peace with mediocrity.”
James Baldwin Quote: “I steal by lawns and grassy plots, I slide by hazel 6 covers; I move the sweet forget-me-nots That grow for happy lovers. I slip, I slide, I gloom, 7 I glance, Among my skimming swallows; I make the netted sunbeams dance Against my shady shallows.”
James Baldwin Quote: “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, which is the only fact we have.”
James Baldwin Quote: “But if women are supposed to be led by men and there aren’t any men to lead them, what happens then? What happens then?”
James Baldwin Quote: “People make you pay for the way you look, which is also the way you think you look, and what time writes is a record of that collision.”
James Baldwin Quote: “It will be a great day for America, incidentally, when we begin to eat bread again, instead of the blasphemous and tasteless foam rubber that we have substituted for it.”
James Baldwin Quote: “If one cannot risk oneself, then one is simply incapable of giving. And, after all, one can give freedom only be setting someone free.”
James Baldwin Quote: “Let us say, then, that truth, as used here, is meant to imply a devotion to the human being, his freedom and fulfillment; freedom which cannot be legislated, fulfillment which cannot be charted.”
James Baldwin Quote: “You never had to look at me. I had to look at you. I know more about you than you know about me. Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
James Baldwin Quote: “Hope? The word seemed to bang from wall to wall. Hope? No, I don’t think there’s any hope. We’re too empty here... She touched her heart. This isn’t a country at all, it’s a collection of football players and Eagle Scouts. Cowards. We think we’re happy. We’re not. We’re doomed.”
James Baldwin Quote: “For Bigger’s tragedy is not that he is cold or black or hungry, not even that he is American, black; but that he has accepted a theology that denies him life, that he admits the possibility of his being sub-human and feels constrained, therefore, to battle for his humanity according to those brutal criteria bequeathed him at his birth. But our humanity is our burden, our life; we need not battle for it; we need only to do what is infinitely more difficult – that is, accept it.”
James Baldwin Quote: “The vision people hold of the world to come is but a reflection, with predictable wishful distortions, of the world in which they live.”
James Baldwin Quote: “And I was yet aware that this was only a moment, that the world waited outside, as hungry as a tiger, and that trouble stretched above us, longer than the sky.”
James Baldwin Quote: “In this endeavor to wed the vision of the Old World with that of the New, it is the writer, not the statesman, who is our strongest arm. Though we do not wholly believe it yet, the interior life is a real life, and the intangible dreams of people have a tangible effect on the world.”
James Baldwin Quote: “All I know about music is that not many people ever really hear it.”
James Baldwin Quote: “It was the Lord who knew of the impossibility every parent in that room faced: how to prepare the child for the day when the child would be despised and how to create in the child – by what means? – a stronger antidote to this poison than one had found for oneself.”
James Baldwin Quote: “When the book comes out it may hurt you – but in order for me to do it, it had to hurt me first. I can only tell you about yourself as much as I can face about myself.”
James Baldwin Quote: “I understood why Giovanni had wanted me and had brought me to his last retreat. I was to destroy this room and give to Giovanni a new and better life. This life could only be my own, which, in order to transform Giovanni’s, must first become a part of Giovanni’s room.”
James Baldwin Quote: “It’s a miracle to realize that somebody loves you.”
James Baldwin Quote: “It must be remembered that the oppressed and the oppressor are bound together within the same society; they accept the same criteria, they share the same beliefs, they both alike depend on the same reality.”
James Baldwin Quote: “The world is mostly divided between madmen who remember and madmen who forget. Heroes are rare.”
James Baldwin Quote: “John’s heart was hardened against the Lord. His father was God’s minister, the ambassador of the King of Heaven, and John could not bow before the throne of grace without first kneeling to his father.”
James Baldwin Quote: “All over Harlem, Negro boys and girls are growing into stunted maturity, trying desperately to find a place to stand; and the wonder is not that so many are ruined but that so many survive.”
James Baldwin Quote: “With this fearful intimation there opened in me a hatred for Giovanni which was as powerful as my love and which was nourished by the same roots.”
James Baldwin Quote: “Freedom lurked around us and I understood, at last, that he could help us be free if we would listen, that he would never be free until we did.”
James Baldwin Quote: “In the first place, as the homeless wanderers of the twentieth century prove, the question of nationality no longer necessarily involves the question of allegiance. Allegiance, after all, has to work two ways; and one can grow weary of an allegiance which is not reciprocal.”
James Baldwin Quote: “Try to imagine how you would feel if you woke up one morning to find the sun shining and all the stars aflame. You would be frightened because it is out of the order of nature. Any upheaval in the universe is terrifying because it so profoundly attacks one’s sense of one’s own reality. Well, the black man has functioned in the white man’s world as a fixed star, as an immovable pillar: and as he moves out of his place, heaven and earth are shaken to their foundation.”
James Baldwin Quote: “I think people ought to do what they want to do, what else are they alive for?”
James Baldwin Quote: “For this is your home, my friend, do not be driven from it; great men have done great things here, and will again, and we can make America what America must become. It will be hard, James, but you come from sturdy, peasant stock, men who picked cotton and dammed rivers and built railroads, and, in the teeth of the most terrifying odds, achieved an unassailable and monumental dignity.”
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