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

Strangers' faces hold no secrets because the imagination does not invest them with any. But 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.

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 whenever and wherever they decide that their "vital interests" are menaced, and think nothing of torturing a man to death: these people are not to be taken seriously when they speak of the "sanctity" of human life, or the "conscience" of the civilized world.

The morning of that day, as Gabriel rose and started out to work, the sky was low and nearly black and the air too thick to breath. Late in the afternoon the wind rose, the skies opened, and the rain came. The rain came down as though once more in Heaven the Lord had been persuaded of the good uses of a flood. It drove before it the bowed wanderer, clapped children into houses, licked with fearful anger against the high, strong wall, and the wall of the lean-to, and the wall of the cabin, beat against the bark and the leaves of trees, trampled the broad grass, and broke the neck of the flower. The world turned dark, forever, everywhere, and windows ran as though their glass panes bore all the tears of eternity, threatening at every instant to shatter inward against this force, uncontrollable, so abruptly visited on the earth.

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

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.

There is an illusion about America, a myth about America to which we are clinging which has nothing to do with the lives we lead and I don't believe that anybody in this country who has really thought about it or really almost anybody who has been brought up against it--and almost all of us have one way or another--this collision between one's image of oneself and what one actually is is always very painful and there are two things you can do about it, you can meet the collision head-on and try and become what you really are or you can retreat and try to remain what you thought you were, which is a fantasy, in which you will certainly perish.

This world is white no longer, and it will never be white again.

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 don't forgive yourself you'll never be able to forgive anybody else and you'll go on committing the same crimes forever.

What the times demand, and in an unprecedented fashion, is that one be--not seem--outrageous, independent, anarchical. That one be thoroughly disciplined--as a means of being spontaneous. That one resist at whatever cost the fearful pressures placed on one to lie about one?s own experience. For in the same way that the writer scarcely ever had a more uneasy time, he has never been needed more.

Whose little boy are you?

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.

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 in order to make sure of what they feel. And when you have waited?-has it made you sure?

The colors on the river faded, the rain began, and the river began to rise. It was apparent that the sun would soon give up the tremendous struggle it cost her to get to Paris for a few hours every day.

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

The rebirth of the soul is perpetual; only rebirth every hour could stay the hand of Satan.

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

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 terrible thing, old buddy, is that you must accept them. And I mean that very seriously. You must accept them and accept them with love. For these innocent people have no other hope. They are, in effect, still trapped in a history which they do not understand; and until they understand it they cannot be released from it. They have had to believe for many years, and for innumerable reasons, that black men are inferior to white men. Many of them, indeed, know better, but, as you will discover, people find it very difficult to act on what they know.

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.

We are all androgynous, not only because we are all born of a woman impregnated by the seed of a man but because each of us, helplessly and forever, contains the other -- male in female, female in male, white in black and black in white. We are a part of each other. Many of my countrymen appear to find this fact exceedingly inconvenient and even unfair, and so, very often, do I. But none of us can do anything about it.

Whatever white people do not know about Negroes reveals, precisely and inexorably, what they do not know about themselves.

Why am I going home? he asked himself. But he knew why. It was time. In order not to lose all that he had gained, he had to move forward and risk it all.

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.

Tell me...is there really no other way for you but this? To kneel down forever before an army of boys for just five dirty minutes in the dark? Think...of the men who have kneeled before you while you thought of something else and pretended that nothing was happening down there in the dark between your legs.

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

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 their terrible events. They had simply been stunned by the hammer. They passed their lives thereafter in a kind of limbo of denied and unexamined pain. The great question that faced him this morning was whether or not he had ever, really, been present at his life. For if he had ever been present, then he was present still, and his world would open up before him.

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