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Top 500 James Baldwin Quotes (2022 Update)
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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 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: “We live in a nation of pigs and murderers.”
James Baldwin Quote: “A child cannot, thank Heaven, know how vast and how merciless is the nature of power, with what unbelievable cruelty people treat each other. He reacts to the fear in his parents’ voices because his parents hold up the world for him and he has no protection without them.”
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: “Love forces, at last, this humility: you cannot love if you cannot be loved, you cannot see if you cannot be seen.”
James Baldwin Quote: “His mind was like the sea itself: troubled, and too deep for the bravest man’s descent, throwing up now and again, for the naked eye to wonder at, treasure and debris long forgotten on the bottom – bones and jewels, fantastic shells, jelly that had once been flesh, pearls that had once been eyes. And he was at the mercy of this sea, hanging there with darkness all around him.”
James Baldwin Quote: “All of Africa will be free before we can get a lousy cup of coffee.”
James Baldwin Quote: “You don’t know what’s happening on the other side of the wall, because you don’t want to know.”
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: “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: “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: “When he was dead I realized that I had hardly ever spoken to him. When he had been dead a long time I began to wish I had. It seems to be typical of life in America, where opportunities, real and fancied, are thicker than anywhere else on the globe, that the second generation has no time to talk to the first.”
James Baldwin Quote: “Voyagers discover that the world can never be larger than the person that is in the world; but it is impossible to foresee this, it is impossible to be warned.”
James Baldwin Quote: “From my own point of view, the fact of the Third Reich alone makes obsolete forever any question of Christian superiority, except in technological terms. White people were, and are, astounded by the holocaust in Germany. They did not know that they could act that way. But I very much doubt whether black people were astounded – at least, in the same way.”
James Baldwin Quote: “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...”
James Baldwin Quote: “The responsibility of a writer is to excavate the experience of the people who produced him.”
James Baldwin Quote: “The occurrence of an event is not the same thing as knowing what it is that one has lived through.”
James Baldwin Quote: “The world sees what it wishes to see, or, when the chips are down, what you tell it to see: it does not wish to see who, or what, or why you are.”
James Baldwin Quote: “I can’t be a pessimist because I’m alive. To be a pessimist means that you have agreed that human life is an academic matter.”
James Baldwin Quote: “If we know, then we must fight for your life as though it were our own-which it is-and render impassable with our bodies the corridors to the gas chamber. For if they come for you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night.”
James Baldwin Quote: “Any society inevitably produces its criminals, but a society at once rigid and unstable can do nothing whatever to alleviate the poverty of its lowest members, cannot present to the hypothetical young man at the crucial moment that so-well-advertised right path.”
James Baldwin Quote: “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.”
James Baldwin Quote: “The writer’s greed is appalling. He wants, or seems to want, everything and practically everybody, in another sense, and at the same time, he needs no one at all.”
James Baldwin Quote: “If you really want to know something about solitude, become famous.”
James Baldwin Quote: “Experience is a private, very largely speechless affair.”
James Baldwin Quote: “If all you want to do is make money, the very last thing you need is imagination.”
James Baldwin Quote: “I think Americans are terrified of feeling anything. I never met a people more infantile in my life.”
James Baldwin Quote: “She, who had descended with such joy and pain, had begun her upward climb – upward, with her baby, on the steep, steep side of the mountain.”
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: “And the reason for this ignorance is that a knowledge of the role these people played – and play – in American life would reveal more about America to Americans than Americans wish to know. The.”
James Baldwin Quote: “It takes strength to remember, it takes another kind of strength to forget, it takes a hero to do both. People who remember court madness through pain, the pain of the perpetually recurring death of their innocence; people who forget court another kind of madness, the madness of the denial of pain and the hatred of innocence; and the world is mostly divided between madmen who remember and madmen who forget. Heroes are rare.”
James Baldwin Quote: “Don’t let it make you bitter. Try to understand. Try to understand. The world’s already bitter enough, we got to try to be better than the world.”
James Baldwin Quote: “The artistic image is not intended to represent the thing itself, but, rather, the reality of the force the thing contains.”
James Baldwin Quote: “No curtain under heaven is heavier than that curtain of guilt and lies behind which white Americans hide.”
James Baldwin Quote: “People said that he was very nice, but I confess that his utter grotesqueness made me uneasy; perhaps in the same way that the sight of monkeys eating their own excrement turns some people’s stomachs. They might not mind so much if monkeys did not- so grotesquely- resemble human beings.”
James Baldwin Quote: “Perhaps the best way to sum all this up is to say that the people I knew felt, mainly, a peculiar kind of relief when they knew that their boys were being shipped out of the south, to do battle overseas. It was, perhaps, like feeling that the most dangerous part of a dangerous journey had been passed and that now, even if death should come, it would come with honor and without the complicity of their countrymen. Such a death would be, in short, a fact with which one could hope to live.”
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: “His body, which I had come to know so well, glowed in the light and charged and thickened the air between us. Then something opened in my brain, a secret, noiseless door swung open, frightening me: it had not occurred to me until that instant that, in fleeing from his body, I confirmed and perpetuated his body’s power over me.”
James Baldwin Quote: “The first love disappears, but never goes. That ache becomes reconciliation.”
James Baldwin Quote: “Every society is really governed by hidden laws, by unspoken but profound assumptions on the part of the people, and ours is no exception.”
James Baldwin Quote: “The greatest significance of the present student generation is that it is through them that the point of view of the subjugated is finally and inexorably being expressed.”
James Baldwin Quote: “To accept one’s past – one’s history – is not the same thing as drowning in it; it is learning how to use it.”
James Baldwin Quote: “Sometimes, when he was not near me, I thought, I will never let him ‘Touch’ me again. Then, when he ‘Touched’ me, I thought, it doesn’t matter, it is only the body, it will soon be over. When it was over, I lay in the dark and listened to his breathing and dreamed of the ‘Touch’ of hands, of Giovanni’s hands, or anybody’s hands, hands which would have the power to crush me and make me whole again.”
James Baldwin Quote: “Hatred destroys the person who hates.”
James Baldwin Quote: “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. But the man who creates the music is hearing something else, is dealing with the roar rising from the void and imposing order on it as it hits the air. What is evoked in him, then, is of another order, more terrible because it has no words, and triumphant, too, for that same reason. And his triumph, when he triumphs, is ours.”
James Baldwin Quote: “We had our arms round each other. It was like holding in my hand some rare, exhausted, nearly doomed bird which I had miraculously happened to find.”
James Baldwin Quote: “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.”
James Baldwin Quote: “You read something which you thought only happened to you, and you discover that it happened 100 years ago to Dostoyevsky. This is a very great liberation for the suffering, struggling person, who always thinks that he is alone. This is why art is important.”
James Baldwin Quote: “Rage can only with difficulty, and never entirely, be brought under the domination of the intelligence, and therefore is not susceptible to any arguments whatsoever.”
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