Born in 1924, James Baldwin was an American essayist, novelist, playwright and social critic. He became an important voice through writing passionately about racial discrimination, spirituality and humanity.
Baldwin’s writings approach social issues and the psychological pressure affecting African Americans and individuals with different sexual orientations, a then-taboo subject. Baldwin explores another controversial subject – interracial relationships — in his novel Another Country.
As a victim of racism, Baldwin became an active participant in the civil rights struggle. The assassinations of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., pushed the author into using a more strident tone in his later work called No Name in the Street.
Some of Baldwin’s best work includes The Fire Next Time, The Devil Finds Work, Nobody Knows my Name and Remember this House – which is an unfinished manuscript that forms the basis of the documentary film I Am Not Your Negro.
An advocate for equity and acceptance, Baldwin died in December 1987.
Here are 15 James Baldwin quotes to bring you closer to humanity.
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.
I can’t believe what you say, because I see what you do.
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.
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.
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.
You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read.
Hatred, which could destroy so much, never failed to destroy the man who hated, and this was an immutable law.
The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose.
Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.
Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.
Nakedness has no color: this can come as news only to those who have never covered, or been covered by, another naked human being.
Love takes off the masks we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.
Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.
People can cry much easier than they can change.
Neither love nor terror makes one blind: indifference makes one blind.