James Baldwin Quotes

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

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.

James Baldwin

The roles that we construct are constructed because we feel that they will help us to survive and also, of course, because they fulfill something in our personalities; and one does not, therefore, cease playing a role simply because one has begun to understand it. All roles are dangerous. The world tends to trap you in the role you play and it is always extremely hard to maintain a watchful, mocking distance between oneself as one appears to be and oneself as one actually is.

James Baldwin

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

James Baldwin

At the rate things are going here, all of Africa will be free before we can get a lousy cup of coffee.

James Baldwin

You read something which you thought only happened to you, and you discover that it happened 100 years ago to Dostoyevsky. This is a very great liberation for the suffering, struggling person, who always thinks that he is alone. This is why art is important. Art would not be important if life were not important, and life is important.

James Baldwin

Art has to be a kind of confession. I don't mean a true confession in the sense of that dreary magazine. The effort it seems to me, is: if you can examine and face your life, you can discover the terms with which you are connected to other lives, and they can discover them, too — the terms with which they are connected to other people.

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 conceive of God, in fact, as a means of liberation and not a means to control others.

James Baldwin

I have not written about being a Negro at such length because I do not expect that to be my only subject, but only because it was the gate I had to unlock before I could hope to write about anything else.

James Baldwin

Any real change implies the breakup of the world as one has always known it, the loss of all that gave one an identity, the end of safety. And at such a moment, unable to see and not daring to imagine what the future will now bring forth, one clings to what one knew, or dreamed that one possessed. Yet, it is only when a man is able, without bitterness or self-pity, to surrender a dream he has long cherished or a privilege he has long possessed that he is set free he has set himself free for higher dreams, for greater privileges.

James Baldwin

Confronted with the impossibility of remaining faithful to ones beliefs, and the equal impossibility of becoming free of them, one can be driven to the most inhuman excesses.

James Baldwin

One writes out of one thing only one's own experience. Everything depends on how relentlessly one forces from this experience the last drop, sweet or bitter, it can possibly give. This is the only real concern of the artist, to recreate out of the disorder of life that order which is art.

James Baldwin

I began plotting novels at about the time I learned to read. The story of my childhood is the usual bleak fantasy, and we can dismiss it with the restrained observation that I certainly would not consider living it again.

James Baldwin

All over Harlem, Negro boys and girls are growing into stunted maturity, trying desperately to find a place to stand; and the wonder is not that so many are ruined but that so many survive.

James Baldwin
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