James Baldwin was an American writer, civil rights activist, and social critic. His work explores the themes of race, sexuality, and identity. Here are some of his most famous quotes:

“Neither love nor terror makes one blind: indifference makes one blind.”― James Baldwin

“In order to have a conversation with someone you must reveal yourself.”― James Baldwin

“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.”― James Baldwin

“Freedom is not something that anybody can be given. Freedom is something people take, and people are as free as they want to be”― James Baldwin

“I know that people can be better than they are. We are capable of bearing a great burden, once we discover that the burden is reality and arrive where reality is.” ― James Baldwin

 “To accept one’s past – one’s history – is not the same thing as drowning in it; it is learning how to use it.”― James Baldwin

“For he was one of those poets who escaped the terrors of writing by writing all the time.” ― James Baldwin

“The great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do.”― James Baldwin

“I often wonder what I’d do if there weren’t any books in the world.”― James Baldwin

 “Anyone who has struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.” ― James Baldwin

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

“The purpose of education…is to create in a person the ability to look at the world for himself, to make his own decisions.”― James Baldwin

“Books taught me that things that tormented me the most were the very things that connected me to everyone who is alive and who had ever been alive.”― James Baldwin

“The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose.” ― James Baldwin

“Be careful what you set your heart upon—for it will surely be yours.”― James Baldwin

“You write in order to change the world … if you alter, even by a millimetre, the way people look at reality, then you can change it.”― James Baldwin

“Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”― James Baldwin

“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.” ― James Baldwin

“Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition.”― James Baldwin

“If the concept of God has any validity or any use, it can only be to make us larger, freer, and more loving. If God cannot do this, then it is time we got rid of Him.” ― James Baldwin

“The victim who is able to articulate the situation of the victim has ceased to be a victim: he or she has become a threat.”― James Baldwin

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

“Please try to remember that what they believe, as well as what they do and cause you to endure does not testify to your inferiority but to their inhumanity”― James Baldwin

“People can’t, unhappily, invent their mooring posts, their lovers and their friends, anymore than they can invent their parents. Life gives these and also takes them away and the great difficulty is to say Yes to life.”― James Baldwin

“You don’t have a home until you leave it and then, when you have left it, you never can go back.”― James Baldwin

“To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time. ”― James Baldwin

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

“The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose.”― James Baldwin

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

“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.”― James Baldwin

“Freedom is not something that anybody can be given. Freedom is something people take, and people are as free as they want to be”― James Baldwin

“All art is a kind of confession, more or less oblique. All artists, if they are to survive, are forced, at last, to tell the whole story; to vomit the anguish up.”― James Baldwin

“I can’t believe what you say, because I see what you do.”― James Baldwin

“I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”― James Baldwin

“Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition.”― James Baldwin

“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.”― James Baldwin

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read.”― 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

“It’s a miracle to realize that somebody loves you.”― James Baldwin

“Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.”― James Baldwin

“I use the word ‘love’ here not merely in the personal sense but as a state of being, or a state of grace – not in the infantile American sense of being made happy but in the tough and universal sense of quest and daring and growth.”― James Baldwin

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

“The world is before you and you need not take it or leave it as it was when you came in.”― James Baldwin

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

“If the word ‘integration’ means anything, this is what it means that we, with love, shall force our brothers to see themselves as they are, to cease fleeing from reality and begin to change it.”― James Baldwin

“You have to decide who you are and force the world to deal with you, not with its idea of you.”― James Baldwin

“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.”― James Baldwin

“There are so many ways of being despicable it quite makes one’s head spin. But the way to be really despicable is to be contemptuous of other people’s pain.”― James Baldwin

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”― James Baldwin

“The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose.”― James Baldwin

“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.”― James Baldwin

“Please try to remember that what they believe, as well as what they do and cause you to endure, does not testify to your inferiority, but to their inhumanity.”― James Baldwin

“You don’t realize that you’re intelligent until it gets you into trouble.”― James Baldwin

“It is true that two wrongs don’t make a right, as we love to point out to the people we have wronged. But one wrong doesn’t make a right, either.”― James Baldwin

“If the concept of God has any validity or any use, it can only be to make us larger, freer, and more loving.”― James Baldwin

“It took many years of vomiting up all the filth I’d been taught about myself, and half-believed, before I was able to walk on the earth as though I had a right to be here.”― James Baldwin

“The price one pays for pursuing any profession or calling is an intimate knowledge of its ugly side.”― James Baldwin

“Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.”― James Baldwin

“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.”― James Baldwin

“Our crown has already been bought and paid for. All we have to do is wear it.”― James Baldwin

“Those who say it can’t be done are usually interrupted by others doing it.”― James Baldwin

“One must say Yes to life and embrace it wherever it is found – and it is found in terrible places; nevertheless, there it is.”― James Baldwin

“Know from whence you came. If you know whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go.” ― James Baldwin

“Ordinary things are behind a talent; discipline, love, luck, but above all – patience.”― James Baldwin

“Trust life, and it will teach you, in joy and sorrow, all that you need to know.” ― James Baldwin

“I’ve always believed that you can think positive just as well as you can think negative.”― James Baldwin

“True rebels after all, are as rare as true lovers, and in both cases, to mistake a fever for passion can destroy one’s life.”― James Baldwin

“You write in order to change the world. If you alter, even by a millimetre, the way people look at reality, then you can change it.”― James Baldwin

“Love takes off the masks we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.”― 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

“It took many years of vomiting up all the filth I’d been taught about myself, and half-believed, before I was able to walk on the earth as though I had a right to be here.”― James Baldwin

“And, here I was, left with only myself to deal with. It was entirely up to me.” ― James Baldwin

“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.” ― James Baldwin

“People can cry much easier than they can change.”― James Baldwin

“Please try to remember that what they believe, as well as what they do and cause you to endure does not testify to your inferiority but to their inhumanity.”― James Baldwin

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

“Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”― James Baldwin

“Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition.”― James Baldwin

“All art is a kind of confession, more or less oblique. All artists, if they are to survive, are forced, at last, to tell the whole story; to vomit the anguish up.”― James Baldwin

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”― James Baldwin

“I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”― James Baldwin

“Since we live in an age in which silence is not only criminal but suicidal, I have been making as much noise as I can.”― James Baldwin

“Once you realize that you can do something, it would be difficult to live with yourself if you didn’t do it.”― James Baldwin

“The American soil is full of the corpses of my ancestors. Why is my freedom or my citizenship, or my right to live there, how is it conceivably a question now?”― James Baldwin

 “I believe that the unexamined life is not worth living, and the writer certainly cannot afford any self-delusion for his subject is himself and the world he is in.”― James Baldwin

“If you don’t look at it, you can’t change it. You’ve got to look at it.”

“It’s a very mysterious endeavor, isn’t it. And the key is love.”― James Baldwin

“We have to make our own definitions and begin to rule the world that way because kids white and black cannot use what they have been given.”― James Baldwin

“What [Stokely Carmichael] is suggesting that frightens the American white people is that the Black people in this country are tied to subjugated people everywhere in the world.”― James Baldwin

 “We call it riots, because they were black people. We wouldn’t call it riots if they were white people.”― James Baldwin

 “I don’t believe you do the right thing because you think it’s the right thing. I think you may be forced to do it because it will be the expedient thing. Which is good enough.”― James Baldwin

“If you have people up in the United States Senate filibustering about whether or not you are human, then obviously you are going to have a reaction in the streets.”― James Baldwin

“The question really is a kind of apathy and ignorance, which is the price we pay for segregation. That’s what segregation means. You don’t know what is happening on the other side of the wall because you don’t want to know.”― James Baldwin

“We know that democracy does not mean the coercion of all into a deadly—and, finally, wicked—mediocrity but the liberty for all to aspire to the best that is in him, or that has ever been.”― James Baldwin

In the New Yorker, 1962: “God is black.”― James Baldwin

“Black power frightens them. White power doesn’t frighten them. Stokely is not, you know, bombing a country out of existence. Nor menacing your children. White power is doing that.”― James Baldwin

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