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Top 500 James Baldwin Quotes (2022 Update)
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James Baldwin Quote: “But what was the point, the purpose, of my salvation if it did not permit me to behave with love toward others, no matter how they behaved toward me? What others did was their responsibility, for which they would answer when the judgment trumpet sounded.”
James Baldwin Quote: “I don’t know, now, when I first looked at Hella and found her stale, found her body uninteresting, her presence grating. It seemed to happen all at once – I suppose that only means that it had been happening for a long time.”
James Baldwin Quote: “The Americans have no sense of doom, none whatever. They do not recognize doom when they see it.”
James Baldwin Quote: “The world should listen then, as I am listening now.”
James Baldwin Quote: “A mob is not autonomous: it executes the real will of the people who rule the State.”
James Baldwin Quote: “In America, though, life seems to move faster than anywhere else on the globe and each generation is promised more than it will get: which creates, in each generation, a furious, bewildered rage, the rage of people who cannot find solid ground beneath their feet. Just.”
James Baldwin Quote: “There is a ‘sanctity’ involved with bringing a child into this world: it is better than bombing one out of it.”
James Baldwin Quote: “My novel’s about Brooklyn.” “The tree? Or the kids or the murderers or the junkies?” Vivaldo swallowed. “All of them.” “That’s quite an assignment. And if you don’t mind my saying so, it sounds just a little bit old fashioned.” He put his hand before his mouth and burped. “Brooklyn’s been done. And done.”
James Baldwin Quote: “I must believe, I must believe, that the heavy grace of God, which has brought me to this point, is all that can carry me out of it.”
James Baldwin Quote: “Other people cannot see what I see whenever I look into your father’s face, for behind your father’s face as it is today are all those other faces which were his.”
James Baldwin Quote: “Books taught me that things that tormented me the most were the very things that connected me to everyone who is alive and who had ever been alive.”
James Baldwin Quote: “And then, again, I was undergoing with my father what the very young inevitability undergo with their elders: I was beginning to judge him. And the very harshness of this judgement, 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.”
James Baldwin Quote: “For a woman,” she said, “I think a man is always a stranger. And there’s something awful about being at the mercy of a stranger.”
James Baldwin Quote: “Uncle Tom’s Cabin, then, is activated by what might be called a theological terror, the terror of damnation; and the spirit that breathes in this book, hot, self-righteous, fearful, is not different from that spirit of medieval times which sought to exorcize evil by burning witches; and is not different from that terror which activates a lynch mob.”
James Baldwin Quote: “An identity is questioned only when it is menaced... Identity would seem to be the garment with which one covers the nakedness of the self...”
James Baldwin Quote: “At four o’clock in the morning, when everyone is drunk enough, then extraordinary things can happen.”
James Baldwin Quote: “It is astonishing that in a country so devoted to the individual, so many people should be afraid to speak.”
James Baldwin Quote: “She fitted in my arms, she always had, and the shock of holding her caused me to feel that my arms had been empty since she had been away.”
James Baldwin Quote: “Freaks are called freaks and are treated as they are treated – in the main, abominably – because they are human beings who cause to echo, deep within us, our most profound terrors and desires.”
James Baldwin Quote: “But I know about suffering; if that helps. I know that it ends. I ain’t going to tell you no lies, like it always ends for the better. Sometimes it ends for the worse. You can suffer so bad that you can be driven to a place where you can’t ever suffer again: and that’s worse.”
James Baldwin Quote: “Heavenly witnesses are a tricky lot, to be used by whoever is closest to Heaven at the time. And legend and theology, which are designed to sanctify our fears, crimes, and aspirations, also reveal them for what they are.”
James Baldwin Quote: “You read something which you thought only happened to you, and you discovered it happened 100 years ago to Dostoyevsky.”
James Baldwin Quote: “In any event, the sloppy and fatuous nature of American good will can never be relied upon to deal with hard problems. These have been dealt with, when they have been dealt with at all, out of necessity – and in political terms, anyway, necessity means concessions made in order to stay on top.”
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: “There is no way of conveying to the corpse the reasons you have made him one – you have the corpse, and you are, thereafter, at themercy of a fact which missed the truth, which means that the corpse has you.”
James Baldwin Quote: “Every writer has only one story to tell, and he has to find a way of telling it until the meaning becomes clearer and clearer, until the story becomes at once more narrow and larger, more and more precise, more and more reverberating.”
James Baldwin Quote: “Furthermore, it is now absolutely clear that white people are a minority in the world – so severe a minority that they now look rather more like an invention – and that they cannot possibly hope to rule it any longer. If this is so, why is it not also possible that they achieved their original dominance by stealth and cunning and bloodshed and in opposition to the will of Heaven, and not, as they claim, by Heaven’s will?”
James Baldwin Quote: “I wish I had heard him more clearly: an oblique confession is always a plea.”
James Baldwin Quote: “People are full of surprise, even for themselves, if they have been stirred enough.”
James Baldwin Quote: “This innocent country set you down in a ghetto in which, in fact, it intended that you should perish.”
James Baldwin Quote: “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.”
James Baldwin Quote: “I stared at absurd Paris, which was as cluttered now, under the scalding sun, as the landscape of my heart.”
James Baldwin Quote: “Employment is my right my destiny.”
James Baldwin Quote: “The innocent brightness of a new-born day Is lovely yet: The clouds that gather round the setting sun 19 Do take a sober coloring from an eye That hath kept watch o’er man’s mortality; Another race hath been, and other palms are won.”
James Baldwin Quote: “You can not describe anything without betraying your point of view, your aspirations, your fears, your hopes. Everything.”
James Baldwin Quote: “I am speaking very seriously, and this is not an overstatement: I picked cotton, I carried it to the market, I built the railroads under someone else’s whip for nothing. For nothing!”
James Baldwin Quote: “But, in the end, it is the threat of universal extinction hanging over all the world today that changes, totally and forever, the nature of reality and brings into devastating question the true meaning of man’s history. We human beings now have the power to exterminate ourselves; this seems to be the entire sum of our achievement.”
James Baldwin Quote: “The woman on the bed was old, her life was fading as the mist rose. She thought of her mother as already in the grave; and she would not let herself be strangled by the hands of the dead. “I’m going, Ma,” she said. “I got to go.”
James Baldwin Quote: “The male cannot bear very much humiliation; and he really cannot bear it, it obliterates him.”
James Baldwin Quote: “You face reality, not the lights. The lights go off as quickly as they come on.”
James Baldwin Quote: “The journey to the grave is already begun, the journey to corruption is, always, already, half over.”
James Baldwin Quote: “But white Americans do not believe in death, and this is why the darkness of my skin so intimidates them.”
James Baldwin Quote: “Americans are as unlike any other white people in the world as it is possible to be. I do not think, for example, that it is too much to suggest that the American vision of the world – which allows so little reality, generally speaking, for any of the darker forces in human life, which tends until today to paint moral issues in glaring black and white – owes a great deal to the battle waged by Americans to maintain between themselves and black men a human separation which could not be bridged.”
James Baldwin Quote: “Everything depends on how relentlessly one forces from experience the last drop, sweet or bitter, it can possibly give.”
James Baldwin Quote: “The sunlight came into the room with the peacefulness one remembers from rooms in one’s early childhood – a sunlight encountered later only in one’s dreams.”
James Baldwin Quote: “In short, we, the black and the white, deeply need each other here if we are really to become a nation- if we really, that is, to achieve our identity, our maturity, as men and women. To create one nation has proved to be a hideously difficult task.”
James Baldwin Quote: “When you’re writing you’re trying to find out something which you don’t know.”
James Baldwin Quote: “It was not only colored people who praised John, since they could not, John felt, in any case really know; but white people also said it, in fact had said it first and said it still. It was when John was five years old and in the first grade that he was first noticed; and since he was noticed by an eye altogether alien and impersonal, he began to perceive, in wild uneasiness, his individual existence.”
James Baldwin Quote: “Souvenez vous,” she tells me. “One must make a little prayer from time to time.”
James Baldwin Quote: “The dead man mattered, the new life mattered; blackness and whiteness did not matter; to believe that they did was to acquiesce in one’s own destruction. Hatred, which could destroy so much, never failed to destroy the man who hated and this was an immutable law.”
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