I always wonder
what they think the niggers are doing
while they, the pink and alabaster pragmatists,
The lady is a tramp
If the hope of giving
is to love the living,
the giver risks madness
In a strange house,
a strange bed
in a strange town,
James Arthur Baldwin (August 2, 1924 – December 1, 1987) was an American novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic.
Baldwin's essays, such as the collection Notes of a Native Son (1955), explore palpable yet unspoken intricacies of racial, sexual, and class distinctions in Western societies, most notably in mid-20th-century America, and their inevitable if unnameable tensions with personal identity, assumptions, uncertainties, yearning, and questing. Some Baldwin essays are book-length, for instance The Fire Next Time (1963), No Name in the Street (1972), and The Devil Finds Work (1976).
His novels and plays fictionalize fundamental personal questions and dilemmas amid complex social and psychological pressures thwarting the equitable integration of not only blacks yet also of male homosexuals—depicting as well some internalized impediments to such individuals' quest for acceptance—namely in his second novel, Giovanni's Room (1956), written well before the equality of homosexuals was widely espoused in America. Baldwin's best-known novel is his first, Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953).
No, I don't feel death coming.
I feel death going:
having thrown up his hands,
for the moment.
I feel like I know him
better than I did.
Those arms held me,
for a while,
and, when we meet again,
there will be that secret knowledge
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.
We have all had the experience of finding that our reactions and perhaps even our deeds have denied beliefs we thought were ours.
There is a "sanctity" involved with bringing a child into this world: it is better than bombing one out of it.
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.
No one can possibly know what is about to happen: it is happening, each time, for the first time, for the only time.
The American ideal, after all, is that everyone should be as much alike as possible.
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.
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.
Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.
The South is very beautiful but its beauty makes one sad because the lives that people live here, and have lived here, are so ugly.
It is very nearly impossible ... to become an educated person in a country so distrustful of the independent mind.
The greatest significance of the present student generation is that it is through them that the point of view of the subjugated is finally and inexorably being expressed.
When one begins to live by habit and by quotation, one has begun to stop living.
You know, it's not the world that was my oppressor, because what the world does to you, if the world does it to you long enough and effectively enough, you begin to do to yourself.
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.
But the relationship of morality and power is a very subtle one. Because ultimately power without morality is no longer power.
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.
When the book comes out it may hurt you—but in order for me to do it, it had to hurt me first. I can only tell you about yourself as much as I can face about myself.
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.
Experience is a private, and a very largely speechless affair.
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.
At bottom, to be colored means that one has been caught in some utterly unbelievable cosmic joke, a joke so hideous and in such bad taste that it defeats all categories and definitions.
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.
The making of an American begins at the point where he himself rejects all other ties, any other history, and himself adopts the vesture of his adopted land.
It is a great shock at the age of five or six to find that in a world of Gary Coopers you are the Indian.
It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.
An identity would seem to be arrived at by the way in which the person faces and uses his experience.
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.
It is a very rare man who does not victimize the helpless.
If they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night.
Rage cannot be hidden, it can only be dissembled. This dissembling deludes the thoughtless, and strengthens rage and adds, to rage, contempt.
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.
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.
No one is more dangerous than he who imagines himself pure in heart: for his purity, by definition, is unassailable.