James Baldwin Quotes

Most popular James Baldwin Quotes

Freedom is not something that anybody can be given; freedom is something people take and people are as free as they want to be.


The future is like heaven—everyone exalts it but no one wants to go there now.


All art is a kind of confession, more or less oblique.


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


Ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.

ignorance justice power

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, or who had ever been alive.
— James Baldwin

heartbreak pain

Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.
— James Baldwin

children role models parenting example

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


Most of us are about as eager to be changed as we were to be born, and go through our changes in a similar state of shock.

change changing people

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


The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions which have been hidden by the answers.


The root function of language is to control the universe by describing it.


The world is before you, and you need not take it or leave it as it was when you came in.
— James Baldwin

change the world inspirational

Nothing is more desirable than to be released from an affliction, but nothing is more frightening than to be divested of a crutch.
— James Baldwin


To defend oneself against a fear is simply to insure that one will, one day, be conquered by it; fears must be faced.
— James Baldwin


Money, it turned out, was exactly like sex, you thought of nothing else if you didn't have it and thought of other things if you did.

money poverty

One can only face in others what one can face in oneself.
— James Baldwin

tolerance relationships

To act is to be committed, and to be committed is to be in danger.


To accept one's past—one's history—is not the same thing as drowning in it; it is learning how to use it.

the past

The responsibility of a writer is to excavate the experience of the people who produced him.


If you're afraid to die, you will not be able to live.
— James Baldwin


The questions which one asks oneself begin, at last, to illuminate the world, and become one's key to the experience of others.

asking questions

Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.
— James Baldwin
The price one pays for pursuing any profession or calling is an intimate knowledge of its ugly side.
— James Baldwin


People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them.


Rage can only with difficulty, and never entirely, be brought under the domination of the intelligence and is therefore not susceptible to any arguments whatever.


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

ignorance justice

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.


Every legend, moreover, contains its residuum of truth, and the root function of language is to control the universe by describing it.
— James Baldwin
Talent is insignificant.  I know a lot of talented ruins.  Beyond talent lie all the usual words: discipline, love, luck, but, most of all, endurance.
— James Baldwin


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.

the human condition

I imagine that one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, that they will be forced to deal with pain.


At the root of the American Negro problem is the necessity of the American White man to find a way of living with the Negro in order to be able to live with himself.


It comes as a great shock around the age of 5, 6, or 7 to discover that the flag to which you have pledged allegiance, along with everybody else, has not pledged allegiance to you.
— James Baldwin