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James A. Baldwin's Quotes

James A. Baldwin profile photo

Born: 1924-08-02
Profession: Author
Nation: American
Biography of James A. Baldwin

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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.

Tags: Money, Sex, Thought

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.

Tags: Daily, Men, Work

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

Tags: Begins, Living, Stop

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

Tags: Beautiful, History, Said

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

Tags: Affliction, Crutch, Desirable

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

Tags: History, Trapped

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

Tags: Knowledge, Side, Ugly

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

Tags: Black, Education, White

People can cry much easier than they can change.

Tags: Change, Cry, Easier

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.

Tags: Born, Changes, State

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

Tags: Everyone, Future, Heaven

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.

Tags: Against, Less, Talent

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

Tags: Good, Honest, Writer

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

Tags: Culture, Paid, Price

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

Tags: Black, Forever, Power

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

Tags: Control, Truth, Universe

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

Tags: Become, Experience, Others

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.

Tags: Effort, Life, Respect

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.

Tags: Begin, Enough, Yourself

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

Tags: Dangerous, Heart, Himself

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

Tags: Glory, Love, Spirit

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

Tags: Leave

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.

Tags: End, Failure, Living

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

Tags: Child, Involved, Sanctity

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

Tags: Act, Committed, Danger

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 with thinking.

Tags: Action, Balance, Thinking
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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.

Tags: Life, Sun, Time

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.

Tags: Against, Love, Soul

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.

Tags: Face, Mystery, Unknown

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 left of human attention.

Tags: Eyes, Help, Human

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.

Tags: Alive, Books, Taught

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.

Tags: Hope, Human, Others

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.

Tags: Greed, Sense, Time

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.

Tags: Discover, Impossible, Larger

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.

Tags: End, Love, War

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

Tags: Cannot, Fear, Love

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

Tags: Dangerous, Lose, Society

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

Tags: Children, Good, Listening

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.

Tags: Become, Lives, Themselves

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.

Tags: Hate, Pain, Sense

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

Tags: Careful, Heart, Surely

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.

Tags: Country, Love

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

Tags: Anyone, Poor, Poverty

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

Tags: Enemy, Ignorance, Power

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.

Tags: Human, Less, Treat

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

Tags: Else, Him, Love

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.

Tags: Future, Time, Work

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.

Tags: Father, Son, Whole

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

Tags: Country, Impossible, Mind

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

Tags: Believed, Negative, Positive

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.

Tags: Become, Education, Society

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

Tags: Happen, Happening, Time

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.

Tags: Everybody, Fact, Love

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

Tags: Destroy, Hatred, Law

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

Tags: History, Time

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

Tags: Almost, Country, Time

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

Tags: Cannot, Child, Him

Those who say it can't be done are usually interrupted by others doing it.

Tags: Done, Others

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

Tags: Accept, Black, Power

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.

Tags: Alone, Artist, Men

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.

Tags: Become, Education, Society

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.

Tags: Become, Real, Whether

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

Tags: Experience, Identity, Seem

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

Tags: Black, Reason, White

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.

Tags: Equal, Faithful, Free

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

Tags: Helpless, Rare

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.

Tags: Beautiful, Beauty, Sad

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

Tags: Deeds, Experience, Thought

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.

Tags: American, History, Making

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

Tags: Longer, Morality, Power

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.

Tags: Age, Five, Great

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

Tags: Experience, Him, Writer

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.

Tags: Life, Sense, Word

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.

Tags: America, Music, Tell