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James Baldwin Quotes on Race, America and Identity

James Baldwin was born on August 2, 1924 in Harlem, New York. He was a novelist, essayist and a playwright, best known for his works such as Go Tell It on the Mountain, Giovanni’s Room, Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone, The Fire next Time, among many others.

With great eloquence, James Baldwin explored at length the subjects of homosexuality, race, the experience of Black-American and the White privilege in America.

Baldwin left the United States and moved to Paris where he led an exiled life. This period of exile brought him near to his culture and helped him to understand his identity, and the American society.

In fact he spent much of his adult years in France. In 1986, together with Leonard Bernstein, James Baldwin was made Commander of the Legion of Honor, one of France’s highest awards.

The Legacy of James Baldwin

Baldwin was a firm believer that social change could take place in the American society. He met with many leaders of his time, such as Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X and believed that love and respect could eliminate the race tension in the American society and create equality for all Americans.

James Baldwin died of a stomach cancer on November 30, 1987 in France. He was buried in Harlem.

Race, Racism and America – Quotes From James Baldwin

 

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

James Baldwin they think it’s important not to be black.

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

James 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.

James Baldwin

Europe has what we do not have yet, a sense of the mysterious and inexorable limits of life, a sense, in a word, of tragedy. And we have what they sorely need: a sense of life’s possibilities.

Europe has what we do not have yet
James 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.

James 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.

James Baldwin

It is a very rare man who does not victimize the helpless.

James Baldwin

It is only in his music, which Americans are able to admire because a protective sentimentality limits their understanding of it, that the Negro in America has been able to tell his story.

James 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.

James Baldwin

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

James Baldwin An identity would seem to be arrived a

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.

James Baldwin

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

James 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.

James Baldwin

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

James 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.

James Baldwin

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

James 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.

James Baldwin

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

James 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.

James Baldwin

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

James 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.

James Baldwin

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

James Baldwin

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

James Baldwin

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

James Baldwin

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

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

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.

James 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.

James Baldwin

Experience that destroys innocents also leads one back to it.

James Baldwin

No one is more dangerous than he who imagines himself pure in heart: for his purity, by definition, is unassailable.

James Baldwin

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

James Baldwin

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

James Baldwin

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

James 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.

James Baldwin

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

James 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.

James 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.

James Baldwin

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

James Baldwin

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

James 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.

James Baldwin

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