Remembering the Words of James Baldwin

Zachary Zane

James Baldwin was queer. He was black. He was intersectional in his approach to social justice. His words are as important today as they ever were.

In case you don’t know, Baldwin was a writer, who first came to notoriety with his 1953 literary debut, Go Tell It on the Mountain. The novel was inspired by his own upbringing in Harlem and detailed his struggle with religion.

Then, in 1957, Baldwin published Giovanni’s Room, one of the best novels of all time. It’s a story that explores themes of isolation, bisexuality, homosexuality, class, race, self-loathing, and so much more. In fact, a year and a half ago I wrote why Giovanni’s Room is a must-read for all queer millennials.

Earlier this year, I Am Not Your Negro came out, which features the words of Baldwin while discussing race relationships in America. It is a must-see. This is all just a fraction of the work and impact Baldwin has had on America. In honor of Baldwin’s birthday, I would like to share some of his inspirational quotes that are equally as important today as they were decades ago.  

So here are 5 quotes of James Baldwin which America, as a society, still so desperately needs to hear.

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

2. "To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time."

3. "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."

4. "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."

5. "Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced."

Happy 93rd birthday, James. You are sorely missed.

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