Top 40 James Baldwin Quotes on Love, Freedom, and America

James Baldwin was a novelist, essayist, playwright, poet. One of the most notable minds in mid-20th century America. His works delve into the racial, and social distinctions in Western societies and bring to light the plights of African Americans.

Listed below are a collection top 40 of James Baldwin quotes that demonstrate his fervent views on love, America, oppression, writing, and more.

James Baldwin Quotes

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

James Baldwin Quotes (1): A child cannot be taught by anyone who despises him, and a child cannot afford to be fooled.

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

James Baldwin Quotes (2): American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it.

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.

James Baldwin Quotes (3): 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.

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

James Baldwin Quotes (4): Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.

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

James Baldwin Quotes (5): Be careful what you set your heart upon – for it will surely be yours.

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

James Baldwin Quotes (6): Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.

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 Quotes (7): 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.

Education is indoctrination if you’re white – subjugation if you’re black.

James Baldwin Quotes (8): Education is indoctrination if you’re white – subjugation if you’re black.

Enthusiasm in our daily work lightens effort and turns even labor into pleasant tasks.

James Baldwin Quotes (9): Enthusiasm in our daily work lightens effort and turns even labor into pleasant tasks.

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

James Baldwin Quotes (10): Hatred, which could destroy so much, never failed to destroy the man who hated, and this was an immutable law.

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

James Baldwin Quotes (11): I am what time, circumstance, history, have made of me, certainly, but I am also, much more than that. So are we all.

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.

James Baldwin Quotes (12): 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.

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

James Baldwin Quotes (13): It is a very rare man who does not victimize the helpless.

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

James Baldwin Quotes (14): It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.

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

James Baldwin Quotes (15): It is very nearly impossible to become an educated person in a country so distrustful of the independent mind.

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.

James Baldwin Quotes (16): 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.

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 Quotes (17): 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.

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 Quotes (18): 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.

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

James Baldwin Quotes (19): No one can possibly know what is about to happen: it is happening, each time, for the first time, for the only time.

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

James Baldwin Quotes (20): No people come into possession of a culture without having paid a heavy price for it.

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

James Baldwin Quotes (21): Nobody is more dangerous than he who imagines himself pure in heart; for his purity, by definition, is unassailable.

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

James Baldwin Quotes (22): People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them.

People can cry much easier than they can change.

James Baldwin Quotes (23): People can cry much easier than they can change.

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 Quotes (24): 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.

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 Quotes (25): 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.

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.

James Baldwin Quotes (26): 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.

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

James Baldwin Quotes (27): The future is like heaven, everyone exalts it, but no one wants to go there now.

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

James Baldwin Quotes (28): The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose.

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

James Baldwin Quotes (29): The noblest spirit is most strongly attracted by the love of glory.

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

James Baldwin Quotes (30): The only thing that white people have that black people need, or should want, is power-and no one holds power forever.

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 Quotes (31): 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.

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 Quotes (32): 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.

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 Quotes (33): 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.

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

James Baldwin Quotes (34): The questions which one asks oneself begin, at least, to illuminate the world, and become one’s key to the experience of others.

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

James Baldwin Quotes (35): The reason people think it’s important to be white is that they think it’s important not to be black.

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

James Baldwin Quotes (36): The responsibility of a writer is to excavate the experience of the people who produced him.

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

James Baldwin Quotes (37): The world is before you and you need not take it or leave it as it was when you came in.

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.

James Baldwin Quotes (38): 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.

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.

James Baldwin Quotes (39): 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.

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

James Baldwin Quotes (40): There is a “sanctity” involved with bringing a child into this world: it is better than bombing one out of it.

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 Quotes (41): 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.

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

James Baldwin Quotes (42): Those who say it can’t be done are usually interrupted by others doing it.

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.

James Baldwin Quotes (43): 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.

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

James Baldwin Quotes (44): When one begins to live by habit, one has begun to stop living.

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