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James Baldwin Quotes on Love, Freedom and Education

These James Baldwin quotes will show you that words have the power to spark change.

A grandson of a slave, James Baldwin used his roots to help define his future and inspire millions with his written word.

If you’ve never felt that words have the power to open the minds of others, you will after reading these incredible James Baldwin quotes.

James Arthur Baldwin was an American novelist, essayist, playwright, and social critic who garnered acclaim for his insights on race, spirituality and humanity.

Regarded as a highly insightful and iconic writer, Baldwin is best known for works such as Go Tell It on the Mountain, Giovanni’s Room, Another Country, and The Fire Next Time.

Born in 1924 in New York City as the eldest son of his mother, Baldwin never knew the identity of his biological father.

He had a difficult childhood, growing up in poverty and spending much of his early years caring for his younger siblings.

Although he already had an interest in writing, it was after he met the renowned artist Beauford Delaney – who became his mentor – that he started taking his passion seriously.

As a homosexual in mid-20th century America, Baldwin was often subjected to discrimination and abuse.

He became disillusioned with his homeland and moved to France where he spent most of his later life.

Baldwin died on December 1,, 1987 in Saint-Paul de Vence.

To honor his life and legacy, here are some powerful James Baldwin quotes.

Don’t forget to also read our collection of thoughtful Alan Watts quotes that will broaden your mind.

James Baldwin quotes on love, freedom and education

1. “Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition.” ― James Baldwin

James Baldwin quotes on life

2. “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

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James Baldwin quotes on what we allow ourselves to become

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

James Baldwin quotes on power

4. 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. – James A. Baldwin

James Baldwin quotes on what people believe

5. Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them. – James A. Baldwin

James Baldwin quotes on children

6. The purpose of education…is to create in a person the ability to look at the world for himself, to make his own decisions. – James A. Baldwin
If you’re enjoying these quotes, make sure to read our collection of education quotes about learning and success.

James Baldwin quotes on education

7. The victim who is able to articulate the situation of the victim has ceased to be a victim: he or she has become a threat. – James A. Baldwin

James Baldwin quotes on victims

8. We should certainly know by now that it is one thing to overthrow a dictator or repel an invader and quite another thing really to achieve a revolution. Time and time and time again, the people discover that they have merely betrayed themselves into the hands of yet another Pharaoh, who, since he was necessary to put the broken country together, will not let them go. – James A. Baldwin

James Baldwin quotes on revolutions

9. A liberal: someone who thinks he knows more about your experience than you do. – James A. Baldwin

James Baldwin quotes on liberty

10. “Our crown has already been bought and paid for. All we have to do is wear it” ― James Baldwin

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James Baldwin quotes on power

If you’re enjoying this article, you might also like our collection of famous poems to inspire you when you feel like giving up.

James Baldwin quotes on change

11. “People can cry much easier than they can change.” ― James Baldwin

James Baldwin quotes on change

12. People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them. – James A. Baldwin

James Baldwin quotes on history

13. Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced. – James A. Baldwin

James Baldwin quotes on the things we face

14. You have to decide who you are and force the world to deal with you, not with its idea of you. – James A. Baldwin

James Baldwin quotes on the world

15. The world is before you and you need not take it or leave it as it was when you came in. – James A. Baldwin

James Baldwin quotes about the world

16. If the word ‘integration’ means anything, this is what it means that we, with love, shall force our brothers to see themselves as they are, to cease fleeing from reality and begin to change it. – James A. Baldwin

James Baldwin quotes about brothers

17. 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. – James A. Baldwin

James Baldwin quotes about real change

18. I think that the inability to love is the central problem, because that inability masks a certain terror, and that terror is the terror of being touched. And if you can’t be touched, you can’t be changed. And if you can’t be changed, you can’t be alive. – James A. Baldwin

James Baldwin quotes on the inability to love

19. The point is to get your work done, and your work is to change the world.” – James A. Baldwin

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James Baldwin quotes on work

20. You write in order to change the world … if you alter, even by a millimeter, the way people look at reality, then you can change it. – James A. Baldwin

James Baldwin quotes on writing

James Baldwin quotes on love

21. Love him and let him love you. Do you think anything else under heaven really matters? – James A. Baldwin

James Baldwin quotes on what matters

22. “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

James Baldwin quotes on growth

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

James Baldwin quotes to inspire and teach

24. Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. – James A. Baldwin

James Baldwin quotes on fear

25. “The role of the artist is exactly the same as the role of the lover. If I love you, I have to make you conscious of the things you don’t see.” ― James Baldwin

James Baldwin quotes on art

You might also like these Mel Robbins quotes that inspire meaningful personal growth.

Which are your favorite James Baldwin quotes

James Baldwin grew up in poverty and was subjected to discrimination and abuse.

Still, he rose to the top of his game and was regarded as a highly insightful, iconic writer.

Although he passed away in 1987, James Baldwin’s powerful words still resonate with much of today’s society.

Hopefully, these quotes have inspired you to find a way, perpetually, to be stronger and better.

Did you enjoy these James Baldwin quotes?

Which of the quotes was your favorite?

We would love to hear all about in the comment section below.

Norbert Juma, Lead Editor
4 Comments
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4 Comments
  1. Charlie

    August 2, 2021 at 5:43 PM

    I really enjoyed reading these. I have tried to read James Baldwin but they were beyond my ability to understand. I loved being able to enjoy his quotes. My favorite is probably “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” Thanks for sharing.

  2. Barbara Johnson

    December 11, 2019 at 8:41 PM

    My favorite quote came from Just Above My Head. “ When someone you love is happy, you have been given a great gift; you are the honored guest at a rare celebration. My husband read this in his speech at our son’s wedding. As a parent this quote is defines how I feel when my children find someone who loves them. I will always cherish this quote.

  3. Darvel Hodge Jr

    August 5, 2019 at 10:36 AM

    I am a 70 year old black man and over the years I have heard the name James Baldwin but I never knew he was a black man. I am college educated and spent 25 years of my life in the military. I have served throughout the world as a soldier. His quotes are the most inspirational I have encountered in my life. I will definitely explore his many accomplishments throughout his life.

    • J David Swift

      August 9, 2019 at 7:51 AM

      Thank you for your comment, Darvel, I have known since high school (1959-1963) that James Baldwin was black, and a great writer, but until recently, I had no idea what a deep thinker and deeply spiritual person he was. I was involved in the military (USAF) for eight years (four years active non-combat duty during Vietnam) and have recently joined with my high school classmates (75% African-American, my roots are in Eastern Europe) to try to form an alumni group to help the current students in Buffalo, NY (majority A-A and other people of color). I think that Baldwin will be a great role model for the young in my former high school. All my best wishes in your retirement, 716-244-1856 (text or voice anytime)

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