Quotes from James Baldwin

No quickshot review today, my friends. I’ve gotten to be really, really busy and I haven’t the time even for those sorts of entries. I do have just enough time, however, to share a few good quotes from the book I’m reading this week: James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time. The proper citation for the edition all these quotes are coming from is this:

Baldwin, James. The Fire Next Time. New York: Vintage International, 1993. Originally published in 1963, essays first appeared in the New Yorker and The Progressive magazines.

Without further ado, here are the quotes I liked most, beginning with a couple from the first essay, “My Dungeon Shook: Letter to My Nephew on the One-Hundredth Anniversary of the Emancipation.”

“You can only be destroyed by believing that you really are what the white world calls a nigger. I tell you this because I love you, and please don’t you ever forget it.”

“We have not stopped trembling yet, but if we had not loved each other none of us would have survived. And now you must survive because we love you, and for the sake of your children and your children’s children.”

-p. 7.

From the second essay, “Down at the Cross: Letter from a Region in My Mind:”

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

-p. 47

“The glorification of one race and the consequent debasement of another–or others–always has been and always will be a recipe for murder. There is no way around this. If one is permitted to treat any group of people with special disfavor because of their race or the color of their skin, there is no limit to what one will force them to endure, and since the entire race has been mysteriously indicted, no reason not to attempt to destroy it root and branch. This is precisely what the Nazis attempted.”

-pp. 82-83

“Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, which is the only fact we have. It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death–ought to decide, indeed to earn one’s death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life. One is responsible to life: It is the small beacon in this terrifying darkness from which we come and to which we shall return. One must negotiate this passage as nobly as possible, for the sake of those who are coming after us.”

-pp. 91-92

“If one is continually surviving the worst that life can bring, one eventually ceases to be controlled by a fear of what life can bring; whatever it brings must be borne. And at this level of experience one’s bitterness begins to be palatable, and hatred becomes too heavy a sack to carry.”

-p. 99.

Hope you like these quotes as much as I did, friends. It’s not a substantial entry, I know, and next week’s post probably won’t be either. I’m just sooo busy ;____; I might write about that later, but not now. We’ll see…



  1. Interesting quotes. I don’t know much about James Baldwin and should try to read him sometime. I did once watch on YouTube a video in which he debates William F. Buckley at Cambridge. It made quite an impression on me.

    1. Thanks for dropping by! That seemed like it would be a *profoundly* interesting debate, I’ve read Buckley’s “God and Man at Yale,” and while I didn’t agree with much of it, it was extremely well written. I figure Baldwin would be an excellent foil for Buckly. I’ll try to see if I can find that Youtube vid.

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