James A. Baldwin quote

"People who cling to their illusions find it difficult, if not impossible, to learn anything worth learning: a people under the necessity of creating themselves must examine everything, and soak up learning the way the roots of a tree soak up water."

James A. Baldwin

Born: August 2, 1924

Die: December 1, 1987

Occupation: Novelist

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More quotes of James A. Baldwin

James A. Baldwin

White people...have quite enough to do in learning how to accept and love themselves and each other, and when they have achieved this -- which will not be tomorrow and may very well be never -- the Negro...

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James A. Baldwin

If we do not now dare everything, the fulfillment of that prophecy, re-created from the Bible in song by a slave, is upon us: God gave Noah the rainbow sign. No more water, fire next time.

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James A. Baldwin

Passion is not friendly. It is arrogant, superbly contemptuous of all that is not itself, and, as they very definition of passion implies the impulse to freedom, it has a might intimidiating power. It...

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James A. Baldwin

There is a fearful splendor in absolute desolation.

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James A. Baldwin

The victim who is able to articulate the situation of the victim has ceased to be a victim: he or she has become a threat.

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James A. Baldwin

No man is a devil in his own mind.

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James A. Baldwin

The impossible is the least that one can demand.

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James A. Baldwin

There are too many things we do not wish to know about ourselves.

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James A. Baldwin

People don't have any mercy. They tear you limb from limb, in the name of love. Then, when you're dead, when they've killed you by what they made you go through, they say you didn't have any character....

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James A. Baldwin

It comes as a great shock…to discover that the flag to which you have pledged allegiance…has not pledged allegiance to you. It comes as a great shock to see Gary Cooper killing off the Indians, and...

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James A. Baldwin

The American ideal is, after all, that everyone should be as much alike as possible.

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James A. Baldwin

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

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James A. Baldwin

Even the most incorrigible maverick has to be born somewhere. He may leave the group that produced him-he may be forced to-but nothing will efface his origins, the marks of which he carries with him everywhere....

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James A. Baldwin

You cannot fix what you will not face.

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James A. Baldwin

In my case, I think my exile saved my life, for it inexorably confirmed something which Americans appear to have great difficulty accepting. Which is, simply, this: a man is not a man until he is able...

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James A. Baldwin

The occurrence of an event is not the same thing as knowing what it is that one has lived through. Most people had not lived -- nor could it, for that matter, be said that they had died-- through any of...

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James A. Baldwin

The states of birth, suffering, love, and death, are extreme states: extreme, universal, and inescapable. We all know this, but we would rather not know it. The artist is present to correct the delusions...

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James A. Baldwin

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.

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James A. Baldwin

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

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James A. Baldwin

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

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James A. Baldwin

The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose.

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James A. Baldwin

People pay for what they do, and still more for what they have allowed themselves to become. And they pay for it very simply; by the lives they lead.

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James A. Baldwin

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

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James A. 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.

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James A. Baldwin

Be careful what you set your heart upon - for it will surely be yours.

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James A. Baldwin

Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.

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James A. Baldwin

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

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James A. Baldwin

I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.

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James A. Baldwin

Love him and let him love you. Do you think anything else under heaven really matters?

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James A. Baldwin

There is never time in the future in which we will work out our salvation. The challenge is in the moment; the time is always now.

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James A. Baldwin

I've always believed that you can think positive just as well as you can think negative.

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James A. Baldwin

If the relationship of father to son could really be reduced to biology, the whole earth would blaze with the glory of fathers and sons.

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James A. Baldwin

It is very nearly impossible... to become an educated person in a country so distrustful of the independent mind.

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James A. Baldwin

Everybody's journey is individual. If you fall in love with a boy, you fall in love with a boy. The fact that many Americans consider it a disease says more about them than it does about homosexuality.

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James A. Baldwin

No one can possibly know what is about to happen: it is happening, each time, for the first time, for the only time.

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James A. Baldwin

I am what time, circumstance, history, have made of me, certainly, but I am also, much more than that. So are we all.

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James A. Baldwin

The power of the white world is threatened whenever a black man refuses to accept the white world's definitions.

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James A. Baldwin

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

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James A. Baldwin

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

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James A. Baldwin

A child cannot be taught by anyone who despises him, and a child cannot afford to be fooled.

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James A. 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.

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James A. Baldwin

American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it.

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James A. Baldwin

When one begins to live by habit and by quotation, one has begun to stop living.

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James A. Baldwin

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

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James A. Baldwin

Fires can't be made with dead embers, nor can enthusiasm be stirred by spiritless men. Enthusiasm in our daily work lightens effort and turns even labor into pleasant tasks.

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James A. Baldwin

The price one pays for pursuing any profession, or calling, is an intimate knowledge of its ugly side.

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James A. Baldwin

Any writer, I suppose, feels that the world into which he was born is nothing less than a conspiracy against the cultivation of his talent.

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James A. Baldwin

Education is indoctrination if you're white - subjugation if you're black.

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James A. Baldwin

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

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James A. Baldwin

People can cry much easier than they can change.

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James A. Baldwin

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.

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James A. Baldwin

The only thing that white people have that black people need, or should want, is power-and no one holds power forever.

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James A. Baldwin

I want to be an honest man and a good writer.

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James A. Baldwin

No people come into possession of a culture without having paid a heavy price for it.

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James A. Baldwin

To be sensual, I think, is to respect and rejoice in the force of life, of life itself, and to be present in all that one does, from the effort of loving to the making of bread.

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James A. Baldwin

Every legend, moreover, contains its residuum of truth, and the root function of language is to control the universe by describing it.

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James A. Baldwin

Nobody is more dangerous than he who imagines himself pure in heart; for his purity, by definition, is unassailable.

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James A. Baldwin

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

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James A. Baldwin

The noblest spirit is most strongly attracted by the love of glory.

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James A. Baldwin

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

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James A. Baldwin

The young think that failure is the Siberian end of the line, banishment from all the living, and tend to do what I then did - which was to hide.

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James A. Baldwin

There is a 'sanctity' involved with bringing a child into this world: it is better than bombing one out of it.

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James A. Baldwin

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

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James A. Baldwin

You know, it's not the world that was my oppressor, because what the world does to you, if the world does it to you long enough and effectively enough, you begin to do to yourself.

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James A. Baldwin

When a man asks himself what is meant by action he proves that he isn't a man of action. Action is a lack of balance. In order to act you must be somewhat insane. A reasonably sensible man is satisfied...

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James A. Baldwin

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.

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James A. Baldwin

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.

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James A. Baldwin

The question of sexual dominance can exist only in the nightmare of that soul which has armed itself, totally, against the possibility of the changing motion of conquest and surrender, which is love.

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James A. Baldwin

The face of a lover is an unknown, precisely because it is invested with so much of oneself. It is a mystery, containing, like all mysteries, the possibility of torment.

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James A. Baldwin

There are few things more dreadful than dealing with a man who knows he is going under, in his own eyes, and in the eyes of others. Nothing can help that man. What is left of that man flees from what is...

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James A. Baldwin

Pessimists are the people who have no hope for themselves or for others. Pessimists are also people who think the human race is beneath their notice, that they're better than other human beings.

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James A. Baldwin

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.

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James A. Baldwin

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.

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James A. Baldwin

I am certainly convinced that it is one of the greatest impulses of mankind to arrive at something higher than a natural state.

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James A. Baldwin

It took many years of vomiting up all the filth I’d been taught about myself, and half-believed, before I was able to walk on the earth as though I had a right to be here.

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James A. Baldwin

There are too many things we do not wish to know about ourselves. People are not, for example, terribly anxious to be equal (equal, after all, to what and to whom?) but they love the idea of being superior.

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James A. Baldwin

Identity would seem to be the garment with which one covers the nakedness of the self, in which case, it is best that the garment be loose, a little like the robes of the desert, through which one's nakedness...

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James A. Baldwin

You write in order to change the world, knowing perfectly well that you probably can't, but also knowing that literature is indispensable to the world... The world changes according to the way people see...

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James A. Baldwin

For these are all our children, we will all profit by or pay for whatthey become.

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James A. Baldwin

The occurrence of an event is not the same thing as knowing what it is that one has lived through.

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James A. Baldwin

Great art can only be created out of love.

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James A. Baldwin

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

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James A. Baldwin

But to look back from the stony plain along the road which led one to that place is not at all the same thing as walking on the road; the perspective to say the very least, changes only with the journey;...

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James A. Baldwin

To hold in the mind forever two ideas which seemed to be in opposition. The first . . . acceptance totally without rancor, of life as it is, and men as they are [;] . . . the second . . . that one must...

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James A. Baldwin

America sometimes resembles, at least from the point of view of a black man, an exceedingly monotonous minstrel show; the same dances, same music, same jokes. One has done (or been) the show so long that...

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James A. Baldwin

Youth must be the worst time in anybody's life. Everything's happening for the first time, which means that sorrow, then, lasts forever. Later, you can see that there was something very beautiful in it....

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James A. Baldwin

Whatever you describe to another person is also a revelation of who you are and who you think you are. You can not describe anything without betraying your point of view, your aspirations, your fears,...

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James A. Baldwin

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...

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James A. Baldwin

The hope of the world lies in what one demands, not of others, but of oneself.

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James A. Baldwin

The great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do.

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James A. Baldwin

He may be a very nice man. But I haven't got the time to figure that out. All I know is, he's got a uniform and a gun and I have to relate to him that way. That's the only way to relate to him because...

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James A. Baldwin

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.

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James A. Baldwin

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...

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James A. Baldwin

Those kids aren't dumb. But the people who run these schools want to make sure they don't get smart: they are really teaching the kids to be slaves.

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James A. Baldwin

Neither love nor terror makes one blind: indifference makes one blind.

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James A. Baldwin

When you're writing you're trying to find out something which you don't know.

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James A. Baldwin

When the white man came to Africa, the white man had the Bible and the African had the land, but now it is the white man who is being, reluctantly and bloodily, separated from the land, and the African...

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James A. Baldwin

Everything depends on how relentlessly one forces from experience the last drop, sweet or bitter, it can possibly give.

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James A. Baldwin

One writes out of one thing only-one's own experience,

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James A. Baldwin

It is astonishing that in a country so devoted to the individual, so many people should be afraid to speak.

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James A. Baldwin

I really do believe in the New Jerusalem. I really do believe that we can all become better than we are. I know we can. But the price is enormous and people are not yet willing to pay it.

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James A. Baldwin

I think white gay people feel cheated because they were born, in principle, in a society in which they were supposed to be safe. The anomaly of their sexuality puts them in danger, unexpectedly.

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James A. Baldwin

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...

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James A. Baldwin

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.

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James A. Baldwin

People who have been wronged will attempt to right the wrong; they would not be people if they didn't. They can rarely afford to be scrupulous about the means they will use. They will use such means as...

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James A. Baldwin

The American idea of racial progress is measured by how fast I become white.

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James A. Baldwin

Love is like the lightning, and your maturity is signaled by the extent to which you can accept the dangers and the power and the beauty of love.

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James A. Baldwin

You write in order to change the world ... if you alter, even by a millimeter, the way people look at reality, then you can change it.

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James A. Baldwin

But the relationship of morality and power is a very subtle one. Because ultimately power without morality is no longer power.

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James A. Baldwin

People who believe that they are strong-willed and the masters of their destiny can only continue to believe this by becoming specialists in self-deception.

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James A. Baldwin

The determination to outwit one's situation means that one has no models, only object lessons.

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James A. Baldwin

I met a lot of people in Europe. I even encountered myself.

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James A. Baldwin

You took the best, so why not take the rest?

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James A. Baldwin

The South is very beautiful but its beauty makes one sad because the lives that people live here, and have lived here, are so ugly.

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James A. Baldwin

I prefer sinners and madmen, who can learn, who can change, who can teach-or people like myself, if I may say so, who are not afraid to eat a lobster alone as they take on their shoulders the monumental...

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James A. Baldwin

You think your pains and heartbreaks are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. [and then you discover that others have suffered much more than you and your problems look good in...

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James A. Baldwin

Rage cannot be hidden, it can only be dissembled. This dissembling deludes the thoughtless, and strengthens rage and adds, to rage, contempt.

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James A. Baldwin

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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James A. Baldwin

The primary distinction of the artist is that he must actively cultivate that state which most men, necessarily, must avoid: the state of being alone.

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James A. Baldwin

Experience is a private, very largely speechless affair.

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James A. Baldwin

The moment we break faith with one another, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.

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James A. Baldwin

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

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James A. Baldwin

To be with God is really to be involved in some enormous, overwhelming desire, and joy, and power which you cannot control, which controls you.

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James A. 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.

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James A. Baldwin

We are responsible for the world in which we find ourselves, if only because we are the only sentient force which can change it.

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James A. Baldwin

The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other, and children cling to us. The moment we cease to hold each other, the moment we break faith with one another, the sea engulfs us and the light...

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James A. Baldwin

You want to write a sentence as clean as a bone. That is the goal.

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James A. Baldwin

The civilized have created the wretched, quite coldly and deliberately, and do not intend to change the status quo; are responsible for their slaughter and enslavement; rain down bombs on defenseless children...

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James A. Baldwin

The writer's only real task: to recreate out of the disorder of life that order which is art

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James A. Baldwin

It is a terrible, an inexorable law that one cannot deny the humanity of another without diminishing one's own: in the face of one's victim, one sees oneself.

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James A. Baldwin

I am aware that no man is a villain in his own eyes.

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James A. Baldwin

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

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James A. Baldwin

Hatred destroys the person who hates.

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James A. 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.

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James A. Baldwin

Yr crown has been bought and paid for. All you have to do is put it on yr head

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James A. Baldwin

I can't believe what you say, because I see what you do.

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James A. Baldwin

All of us know, whether or not we are able to admit it, that mirrors can only lie, that death by drowning is all that awaits one there. It is for this reason that love is so desperately sought and so cunningly...

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James A. Baldwin

It is perfectly possible to be enamoured of Paris while remaining totally indifferent or even hostile to the French.

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James A. Baldwin

Unless a writer is extremely old when he dies, in which case he has probably become a neglected institution, his death must always be seen as untimely. This is because a real writer is always shifting...

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James A. Baldwin

Writing is a political instrument.

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James A. Baldwin

There exists among the intolerable degraded, the perverse and powerful desire to force into the arena of the actual those fantastic crimes of which they have been accused, achieving their vengeance and...

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James A. Baldwin

Trust life, and it will teach you, in joy and sorrow, all you need to know.

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James A. Baldwin

Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. I use the word "love" here not merely in the personal sense but as a state of being, or a state of grace - not...

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James A. Baldwin

Christianity has operated with an unmitigated arrogance and cruelty - necessarily, since a religion ordinarily imposes on those who have discovered the true faith the spiritual duty of liberating the infidels.

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James A. Baldwin

Everything now, we must assume, is in our hands; we have no right to assume otherwise. If we do not falter in our duty now, we may be able, handful that we are, to end the racial nightmare, and achieve...

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James A. Baldwin

It is a great shock at the age of five or six to find that in a world of Gary Coopers you are the Indian.

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James A. Baldwin

The reason people think it's important to be white is that they think it's important not to be black.

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James A. Baldwin

At four o'clock in the morning, when everyone is drunk enough, then extraordinary things can happen.

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James A. Baldwin

The American ideal of sexuality appears to be rooted in the American ideal of masculinity. This idea has created cowboys and Indians, good guys and bad guys, punks and studs, tough guys and softies, butch...

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James A. Baldwin

It demands great spiritual resilience not to hate the hater whose foot is on your neck, and an even greater miracle of perception and charity not to teach your child to hate.

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James A. Baldwin

All racists are irresponsible.

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James A. Baldwin

One can only face in others what one can face in oneself.

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James A. Baldwin

Americans should never come to Europe,' she said, and tried to laugh and began to cry, 'it means they never can be happy again. What's the good of an American who isn't happy? Happiness was all we had.

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James A. Baldwin

Confusion is a luxury which only the very, very young can possibly afford and you are not that young anymore

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James A. Baldwin

An identity would seem to be arrived at by the way in which the person faces and uses his experience.

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James A. Baldwin

We cannot discuss the state of our minorities until we first have a sense of what we are, who we are, what our goals are, and what we take life to be.

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James A. Baldwin

Artists are here to disturb the peace.

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James A. Baldwin

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.

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James A. Baldwin

For nothing is more unbearable, once one has it, than freedom.

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James A. Baldwin

I'm not interested in anybody's guilt. Guilt is a luxury that we can no longer afford. I know you didn't do it, and I didn't do it either, but I am responsible for it because I am a man and a citizen of...

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James A. 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...

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James A. Baldwin

Then I buckled up my shoes, and I started.

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James A. Baldwin

...in order for this to happen, your entire frame of reference will have to change, and you will be forced to surrender many things that you now scarcely know you have.

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James A. Baldwin

how can one respect, let alone adopt, the values of a people who do not, on any level whatever, live the way they say they do, or the way they say they should?

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James A. Baldwin

All art is a kind of confession.

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James A. Baldwin

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...

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James A. Baldwin

The moral authority in the Western world is gone. And it is gone forever. It is gone, not because of the criminal record--everybody's record is criminal. It is gone because you cannot do one thing and...

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James A. Baldwin

Experience, which destroys innocence, also leads one back to it.

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James A. Baldwin

In order to have a conversation with someone you must reveal yourself.

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James A. Baldwin

The white man discovered the Cross by way of the Bible, but the black man discovered the Bible by way of the Cross.

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James A. Baldwin

Our dehumanization of the Negro then is indivisible from our dehumanization of ourselves; the loss of our own identity is the price we pay for our annulment of his.

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James A. Baldwin

Not only was I not born to be a slave; I was not born to hope to become the equal of the slave master.

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James A. Baldwin

The making of an American begins at the point where he himself rejects all other ties, any other history, and himself adopts the vesture of his adopted land.

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James A. Baldwin

Any honest examination of the national life proves how far we are from the standard of human freedom with which we began. The recovery of this standard demands of everyone who loves this country a hard...

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James A. Baldwin

It is a very grave matter to be forced to imitate a people for whom you know-which is the price of your performance and survival-you do not exist. It is hard to imitate a people whose existence appears,...

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James A. Baldwin

What passes for identity in America is a series of myths about one's heroic ancestors. It's astounding to me, for example, that so many people really appear to believe that the country was founded by a...

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James A. Baldwin

If one cannot risk oneself, then one is simply incapable of giving. And, after all, one can give freedom only be setting someone free.

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James A. Baldwin

To be born in a free society and not to be born free is to be born into a lie. To be told by co-citizens and co-Christians that you have no value, no history, have never done anything that is worthy of...

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James A. Baldwin

The miracle is that some have stepped out of the rags of the Republic's definition to assume the great burden and glory of their humanity and their responsibility for one another. It is an extraordinary...

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James A. Baldwin

The real victim of bigotry is the white man who hides his weakness under his myth of superiority.

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James A. Baldwin

Words like 'freedom', 'justice' and 'democracy' are not common concepts; on the contrary, they are rare. People are not born knowing what these are. It takes enormous, and above all, individual effort...

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James A. Baldwin

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.

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James A. Baldwin

People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction.

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James A. Baldwin

We cannot discuss the state of our minorities until we first have some sense of what we are, who we are, what our goals are, and what we take life to be. The question is not what we can do now for the...

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James A. Baldwin

The paradox of education is precisely this - that as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated.

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James A. Baldwin

Color is not a human or a personal reality it is a political reality.

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James A. Baldwin

Everything in life depends on how that life accepts its limits.

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James A. Baldwin

Societies never know it, but the war of an artist with his society is a lover's war, and he does, at his best, what lovers do, which is to reveal the beloved to himself and, with that revelation, to make...

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James A. Baldwin

Whose little boy are you?

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James A. Baldwin

Whoever debases others is debasing himself.

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James A. Baldwin

Society is held together by our need; we bind it together with legend, myth, coercion, fearing that without it we will be hurled into that void, within which, like the earth before the Word was spoken,...

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James A. Baldwin

But it was not the room’s disorder which was frightening; it was the fact that when one began searching for the key to this disorder, one realized that it was not to be found in any of the usual places....

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James A. Baldwin

Perhaps, as we say in America, I wanted to find myself. This is an interesting phrase, not current as far as I know in the language of any other people, which certainly does not mean what it says but betrays...

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James A. Baldwin

Fonny and I just sat there... while the voices of the congregation rose and rose around us, without mercy... Teddy had the tambourine, and gave the cue to the piano player-I never got to know him: a long...

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James A. Baldwin

She was twenty and had come to realize that, though she had a voice, she wasn't a singer; that to endure and embrace the life of a singer demands a whole lot more than a voice.

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James A. Baldwin

It was as though we were a picture, trapped in time: this had been happening for hundreds of years, people sitting in a room, waiting for dinner, and listening to the blues.

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James A. Baldwin

Tell me, he said, "What is this thing about time? Why is it better to be late than early? People are always saying, we must wait, we must wait. what are they waiting for?" "Well […] I guess people wait...

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James A. Baldwin

You don’t have a home until you leave it and then, when you have left it, you never can go back.

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James A. Baldwin

The challenge is in the moment; the time is always now.

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James A. Baldwin

Somebody," said Jacques, "your father or mine, should have told us that not many people have ever died of love. But multitudes have perished, and are perishing every hour - and in the oddest places! -...

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James A. Baldwin

The universe, which is not merely the stars and the moon and the planets, flowers, grass and trees, but other people, has evolved no terms for your existence, has made no room for you, and if love will...

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James A. Baldwin

If the concept of God has any validity or any use, it can only be to make us larger, freer, and more loving. If God cannot do this, then it is time we got rid of Him.

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James A. Baldwin

It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death-- ought to decide, indeed, to earn one's death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life. One is responsible to life: It is the small...

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James A. Baldwin

Yet I also suspected that what I was seeing was but a part of the truth and perhaps not even the most important part; beneath these faces, these clothes, accents, rudenesses, was power and sorrow, both...

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James A. Baldwin

Precisely at the point when you begin to develop a conscience you must find yourself at war with your society.

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James A. Baldwin

The trick is to love somebody.... If you love one person, you see everybody else differently.

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James A. Baldwin

These boys, now, were living as we'd been living then, they were growing up with a rush and their heads bumped abruptly against the low ceiling of their actual possibilities. They were filled with rage....

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James A. Baldwin

It is astonishing the lengths to which a person, or a people, will go in order to avoid a truthful mirror.

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James A. Baldwin

This is the charged, the dangerous moment, when everything must be re-examined, must be made new, when nothing at all can be taken for granted.

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James A. Baldwin

No one knows very much about the life of another. This ignorance becomes vivid, if you love another. Love sets the imagination on fire, and, also, eventually, chars the imagination into a harder element:...

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James A. Baldwin

You have to go the way your blood beats. If you don't live the only life you have, you won't live some other life, you won't live any life at all.

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James A. Baldwin

Because I was raised in a Christian culture I never considered myself to be a totally free human being.

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James A. Baldwin

Whoever is born in New York is ill-equipped to deal with any other city: all other cities seem, at best, a mistake, and, at worst, a fraud. No other city is so spitefully incoherent. Whereas other cities...

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James A. Baldwin

If I could make you stay, I would,’ he shouted. ‘If I had to beat you, chain you, starve you—if I could make you stay, I would.’ He turned back into the room; the wind blew his hair. He shook his...

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James A. Baldwin

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.

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James A. Baldwin

Well,’ I said, ‘Paris is old, is many centuries. You feel, in Paris, all the time gone by. That isn’t what you feel in New York — ’He was smiling. I stopped. ‘What do you feel in New York?’...

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James A. Baldwin

You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read.

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James A. Baldwin

People who cling to their illusions find it difficult, if not impossible, to learn anything worth learning: a people under the necessity of creating themselves must examine everything, and soak up learning...

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James A. Baldwin

Sometimes you hear a person speak the truth and you know that they are speaking the truth. But you also know that they have not heard themselves, do not know what they have said: do not know that they...

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James A. Baldwin

Each of us, helplessly and forever, contains the other-male in female, female in male, white in black, and black in white. We are part of each other. Many of my countrymen appear to find this fact exceedingly...

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James A. Baldwin

One writes out of one thing only--one's own experience. Everything depends on how relentlessly one forces from this experience the last drop, sweet or bitter, it can possibly give. This is the only real...

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James A. Baldwin

When human rights are abused on a grand scale, the broth of purity boils and feeds the rebellion of a new order.

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James A. Baldwin

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.

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James A. Baldwin

It must be remembered that in those great days I was considered to be an "integrationist" - this was never, quite, my own idea of myself - and Malcolm was considered to be a "racist in reverse." This formulation,...

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James A. Baldwin

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,...

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James A. Baldwin

The role of the artist is exactly the same as the role of the lover. If I love you, I have to make you conscious of the things you don’t see.

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James A. Baldwin

People can't, unhappily, invent their mooring posts, their lovers and their friends, anymore than they can invent their parents. Life gives these and also takes them away and the great difficulty is to...

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James A. Baldwin

The place in which I'll fit will not exist until I make it.

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James A. Baldwin

It is rare indeed that people give. Most people guard and keep; they suppose that it is they themselves and what they identify with themselves that they are guarding and keeping, whereas what they are...

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James A. Baldwin

If you are going to be a writer there is nothing I can say to stop you; if you're not going to be a writer nothing I can say will help you. What you really need at the beginning is somebody to let you...

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James A. Baldwin

All art is a kind of confession, more or less oblique. All artists, if they are to survive, are forced, at last, to tell the whole story; to vomit the anguish up.

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James A. Baldwin

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...

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James A. Baldwin

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...

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James A. Baldwin

True rebels after all, are as rare as true lovers,and in both cases, to mistake a fever for passion can destroy one's life

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James A. 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 really terrible thing, old buddy, is that...

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James A. Baldwin

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.

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James A. Baldwin

Know from whence you came. If you know whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go.

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James A. Baldwin

Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.

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James A. Baldwin

We have all had the experience of finding that our reactions and perhaps even our deeds have denied beliefs we thought were ours.

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James A. Baldwin

We should certainly know by now that it is one thing to overthrow a dictator or repel an invader and quite another thing really to achieve a revolution. Time and time and time again, the people discover...

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James A. Baldwin

Nakedness has no color: this can come as news only to those who have never covered, or been covered by, another naked human being.

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James A. Baldwin

Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition.

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James A. Baldwin

Hatred is always self hatred, and there is something suicidal about it.

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James A. Baldwin

People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction, and anyone who insists on remaining in a state on innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster.

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James A. Baldwin

We are very cruelly trapped between what we would like to be and what we actually are. And we cannot possibly become what we would like to be until we are willing to ask ourselves just why the lives we...

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James A. Baldwin

It is dangerous to be an American Negro male. America has never wanted its Negroes to be men, and does not, generally, treat them as men. It treats them as mascots, pets, or things.

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James A. Baldwin

For, while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard. There isn't any other tale to tell, it's the only light we've got in all this...

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James A. Baldwin

The artistic image is not intended to represent the thing itself, but, rather, the reality of the force the thing contains.

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James A. Baldwin

For nothing is fixed, forever and forever and forever, it is not fixed; the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock. Generations do not cease to...

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James A. Baldwin

There are so many ways of being despicable it quite makes one’s head spin. But the way to be really despicable is to be contemptuous of other people’s pain.

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James A. Baldwin

We do not trust educated people and rarely, alas, produce them, for we do not trust the independence of mind which alone makes a genuine education possible.

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James A. Baldwin

Allegiance, after all, has to work two ways; and one can grow weary of an allegiance which is not reciprocal.

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James A. Baldwin

People are continually pointing out to me the wretchedness of white people in order to console me for the wretchedness of blacks. But an itemized account of the American failure does not console me and...

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James A. Baldwin

I had never before thought of how awful the relationship must be between the musician and his instrument. He has to fill it, this instrument, with the breath of life, his own. He has to make it do what...

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James A. Baldwin

If I am not what you say I am, then you are not who you think you are.

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James A. Baldwin

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

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James A. Baldwin

I thought of the people before me who had looked down at the river and gone to sleep beneath it. I wondered about them. I wondered how they had done it--it, the physical act. I simply wondered about the...

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James A. Baldwin

I often wonder what I'd do if there weren't any books in the world.

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James A. Baldwin

It happened, as many things do, imperceptibly, in many ways at once. I date it - the slow crumbling of my faith, the pulverization of my fortress - from the time, about a year after I had begun to preach,...

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James A. Baldwin

History is not a procession of illustrious people. It's about what happens to a people. Millions of anonymous people is what history is about.

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James A. Baldwin

The poet or the revolutionary is there to articulate the necessity, but until the people themselves apprehend it, nothing can happen ... Perhaps it can't be done without the poet, but it certainly can't...

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James A. Baldwin

A person does not lightly elect to oppose his society. One would much rather be at home among one's compatriots than be mocked and detested by them. And there is a level on which the mockery of people,...

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James A. 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. An invented past can never be used; it cracks and crumbles under the pressures of life...

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James A. Baldwin

Life is more important than art; that's what makes art important.

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James A. Baldwin

If one really wishes to know how justice is administered in a country, one does not question the policemen, the lawyers, the judges, or the protected members of the middle class. One goes to the unprotected...

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James A. Baldwin

The purpose of education...is to create in a person the ability to look at the world for himself, to make his own decisions.

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James A. Baldwin

In overlooking, denying, evading this complexity--which is nothing more than the disquieting complexity of ourselves--we are diminished and we perish; only within this web of ambiguity, paradox, this hunger,...

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James A. Baldwin

Confronted with the impossibility of remaining faithful to one's beliefs, and the equal impossibility of becoming free of them, one can be driven to the most inhuman excesses.

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James A. Baldwin

The relatively conscious whites and the relatively conscious blacks, who must, like lovers, insist on, or create, the consciousness of the others in order to end the racial nightmare and acheive our country.

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James A. Baldwin

Years ago, when he was around fourteen, he'd been all hipped on the idea of going to India. He read books about people sitting on rocks, naked, in all kinds of weather, but mostly bad, naturally, and walking...

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James A. Baldwin

You're getting to be a big boy,' I said desperately, 'it's time you started thinking about your future.' 'I'm thinking about my future,' said Sonny, grimly. 'I think about it all the time.

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James A. Baldwin

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

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James A. Baldwin

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....

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James A. Baldwin

He leaned up a little and watched her face. Her face would now be, forever, more mysterious and impenetrable than the face of any stranger. Strangers' faces hold no secrets because the imagination does...

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James A. Baldwin

Most of us, no matter what we say, are walking in the dark, whistling in the dark. Nobody knows what is going to happen to him from one moment to the next, or how one will bear it. This is irreducible....

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James A. Baldwin

Whoever is born in New York is ill-equipped to deal with any other city: all other cities seem, at best, a mistake, and, at worst, a fraud. No other city is so spitefully incoherent.

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James A. Baldwin

There are people in the world for whom "coming along" is a perpetual process, people who are destined never to arrive.

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James A. Baldwin

People are too various to be treated so lightly. I am too various to be trusted.

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James A. Baldwin

It is only because the world looks on his talent with such a frightening indifference that the artist is compelled to make his talent important.

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James A. Baldwin

But, when the chips are down, its better to be furious with someone you love, or frightened for someone you love, than be put through the merciless horror of being ashamed of someone you love.

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James A. Baldwin

There are few things under heaven more unnerving than the silent, accumulating contempt and hatred of a people.

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James A. Baldwin

We all commit our crimes. The thing is to not lie about them -- to try to understand what you have done, why you have done it. That way, you can begin to forgive yourself. That's very important. If you...

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James A. Baldwin

Do I really want to be integrated into a burning house?

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James A. Baldwin

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...

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James A. Baldwin

Secrets hidden at the heart of midnight are simply waiting to be dragged to the light, as, on some unlucky high noon, they always are. But secrets shrouded in the glare of candor are bound to defeat even...

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James A. Baldwin

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.

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James A. Baldwin

I was in his hands, he called me by the thunder at my ear. I was in his hands: I was being changed; all that I could do was cling to him. I did not realize, until I realized it, that I was also kissing...

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James A. Baldwin

Sentimentality, the ostentatious parading of excessive and spurious emotion, is the mark of dishonesty...the wet eyes of the sentimentalist betray his aversion to experience, his fear of life, his arid...

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James A. Baldwin

People who cling to their illusions find it difficult, if not impossible, to learn anything worth learning: a people under the necessity of creating themselves must examine everything, and soak up learning...

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Etty Hillesum

Slowly but surely I have been soaking Rilke up these last few months: the man, his work and his life. And that is probably the only right way with literature, with study, with people or with anything else:...

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Jim Rohn

Learn to get from the day. Not just get through it, get from it. Soak it up. Each day is a piece of the mosaic of your life.

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John Steinbeck

They're a dark people with a gift for suffering way past their deserving. It's said that without whiskey to soak and soften the world, they'd kill themselves. (Irish)

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Anne Bishop

Sylvia had given him a scalding lecture, the gist of it being that whatever a woman enjoyed wearing was feminine and anything she didn't enjoy wearing wasn't, and if he was too stubborn and old fashioned...

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Steven Pinker

I think the reason that swearing is both so offensive and so attractive is that it is a way to push people's emotional buttons, and especially their negative emotional buttons. Because words soak up emotional...

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Jeff Bezos

Teachers, who are really good create that environment where you can be very satisfied by the process of learning. If you do something and you find it a very satisfying experience then you want to do more...

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Walter Mosley

Love, as the poet says, is like the spring. It grows on you and seduces you slowly and gently, but it holds tight like the roots of a tree. You don't know until you're ready to go that you can't move,...

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Chloe Grace Moretz

My brother Trev went to the Professional Performing Arts School in New York, and he used to do his monologues and stuff and rehearse in our apartment. So I used to hear him all the time doing these things...

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Carl Brashear

Sometimes I would come back from a run, and my artificial leg would have a puddle of blood from my stump. I wouldn't go to sick bay. In that year, if I had gone to sick bay, they would have written me...

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Douglas Coupland

Salad bars are like a restaurant's lungs. They soak up the impurities and bacteria in the environment, leaving you with much cleaner air to enjoy.

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Ani DiFranco

and half of learning to play is learning what not to play and she's learning the spaces she leaves have their own things to say and she's trying to sing just enough so that the air around her moves and...

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Mitchel Resnick

When you learn through coding, [you're] coding to learn. You're learning it in a meaningful context, and that's the best way of learning things.

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Marion Zimmer Bradley

I think too many people presume to read the divine Scriptures and fall into such terrors as this,' said Patricius sternly. 'Those who presume on their learning will learn, I trust, to listen to their priests...

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Ivan Illich

It takes more time and effort and delicacy to learn the silence of a people than to learn its sounds. Some people have a special gift for this. Perhaps this explains why some missionaries, notwithstanding...

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Vir Das

Surround yourself with a bunch of like-minded people, and you'll soak up their habits like a starved sponge. Fat people with fat friends care less about their weight.

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David Allen

We suffer the stress of infinite opportunity: There are so many things that we could do, and all we see are people who seem to be performing at star quality. It's very hard not to try to be like them....

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Joyce Meyer

Consider a tree for a moment. As beautiful as trees are to look at, we don't see what goes on underground - as they grow roots. Trees must develop deep roots in order to grow strong and produce their beauty....

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Rachel Caine

I stopped in the full force of a patch of sunlight in the lobby window and let my skin soak up the energy. I hadn’t realized I needed it until it reached inside and stilled me in a way that only David’s...

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Sonja Lyubomirsky

If we observe genuinely happy people, we shall find that they do not just sit around being contented. They make things happen. They pursue new understandings, seek new achievements, and control their thoughts...

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Jerry Uelsmann

And young people who are learning digital skills discover that the real challenge is coming up with an image that resonates, first of all, with your self and hopefully, with an audience. They can learn...

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“Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.”

― Dr. Seuss