James Baldwin, fully James Arthur Baldwin

James
Baldwin, fully James Arthur Baldwin
1924
1987

American Writer, Novelist, Essayist, Playwright, Poet, Activist and Social Critic

Author Quotes

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

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.

The prison is overcrowded, the calendars full, the judges busy, the lawyers ambitious, and the cops zealous. What does it matter if someone gets trapped here for a year or two, gets ruined here, goes mad here, commits murder or suicide here? It's too bad, but that's the way the cookie crumbles sometimes. I do not claim that everyone in prison here is innocent, but I do claim that the law, as it operates, is guilty, and that the prisoners, therefore, are all unjustly imprisoned. Is it conceivable, after all, that any middle-class white boy -- or, indeed, almost any white boy -- would have been arrested on so grave a charge as murder, with such flimsy substantiation, and forced to spend, as of this writing, three years in prison? What force, precisely, is operating when a prisoner is advised, requested, ordered, intimidated, or forced, to confess to a crime he has not committed, and promised a lighter sentence for so perjuring and debasing himself? Does the law exist for the purpose of furthering the ambitions of those who have sworn to uphold the law, or is it seriously to be considered as a moral, unifying force, the health and strength of a nation?

The subtle and deadly change of heart that might occur in you would be involved with the realization that a civilization is not destroyed by wicked people; it is not necessary that people be wicked but only that they be spineless.

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

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.

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 breaking of bread.

We take our shape, it is true, within and against that cage of reality bequeathed us at our birth; and yet is precisely through our dependence on this reality that we are most endlessly betrayed.

Whether in private debate or in public, any attempt I made to explain how the Black Muslim movement came about, and how it has achieved such force, was met with a blankness that revealed the little connection that the liberals' attitudes have with their perceptions or their lives, or even their knowledge?revealed, in fact, that they could deal with the Negro as a symbol or a victim but had no sense of him as a man.

You don?t have a home until you leave it and then, when you have left it, you never can go back.

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.

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 freedom real.

The Atlantic Ocean is deep and wide and money doesn't hurry from the other side.

The impossible is the least that one can demand.

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

The summer ended. Day by day, and taking its time, the summer ended. The noises in the street began to change, diminish, voices became fewer, the music sparse. Daily, blocks and blocks of children were spirited away. Grownups retreated from the streets, into the houses. Adolescents moved from the sidewalk to the stoop to the hallway to the stairs, and rooftops were abandoned. Such trees as there were allowed their leaves to fall - they fell unnoticed - seeming to promise, not without bitterness, to endure another year. At night, from a distance, the parks and playgrounds seemed inhabited by fireflies, and the night came sooner, inched in closer, fell with a greater weight. The sound of the alarm clock conquered the sound of the tambourine, the houses put on their winter faces. The houses stared down a bitter landscape, seeming, not without bitterness, to have resolved to endure another year.

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

This is the only real concern of the artist, to recreate out of the disorder of life that order which is art.

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 never, in one's life, accept... injustices as commonplace but must fight them with all one's strength.

Well, 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 ? those, precisely, who need the law's protection most! ? and listens to their testimony. Ask any Mexican, any Puerto Rican, any black man, any poor person ? ask the wretched how they fare in the halls of justice, and then you will know, not whether or not the country is just, but whether or not it has any love for justice, or any concept of it. It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.

White Americans find it as difficult as white people elsewhere do to divest themselves of the notion that they are in possession of some intrinsic value that black people need, or want. And this assumption?which, for example, makes the solution to the Negro problem depend on the speed with which Negroes accept and adopt white standards?is revealed in all kinds of striking ways, from Bobby Kennedy's assurance that a Negro can become President in forty years to the unfortunate tone of warm congratulation with which so many liberals address their Negro equals.

You don?t know, and there?s no way in the world for you to find out, what it?s like to be a black girl in this world, and the way white men, and black men, too, baby, treat you.

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. That's because you ain't got to go through it no more.

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, the foundations of society are hidden.

The betrayal of a belief is not the same thing as ceasing to believe. If this were not so there would be no moral standards in the world at all.

Author Picture
First Name
James
Last Name
Baldwin, fully James Arthur Baldwin
Birth Date
1924
Death Date
1987
Bio

American Writer, Novelist, Essayist, Playwright, Poet, Activist and Social Critic