James Baldwin
Quotations


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.

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

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.

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.

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

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

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

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.

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 look at himself, for the greatest achievments must begin somewhere, and they always begin with the person. If we are not capable of this examination, we may yet become one of the most distinguished and monumental failures in the history of nations.

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

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

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

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.

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

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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