“I am forced to believe that we can survive whatever we must survive. But the future of the Negro in this country is precisely as bright or dark as the future of the country. It is entirely up to the American people whether or not they are going to face and deal with and embrace the stranger whom they maligned so long. ”
— James Baldwin
“There are so many ways of being despicable it quite makes one’s head spin. But the way to be really despicable is to be contemptuous of other people’s pain.”
― James Baldwin
Thank you, as always.
AP image via The Nation
“Every new environment, particularly if one knows that one must make the effort to accustom oneself to working in it, risks being more than a little traumatic. One finds oneself nervously examining one’s new surroundings, searching for the terms of the adjustment; therefore, in the beginning, I made a somewhat too conscious effort to be pleased by Hollywood. There was the sky after all, which New Yorkers seldom see, and there was space, which New Yorkers have forgotten, there was the mighty and dramatic Pacific, there were hills. Some very valuable and attractive people had lived and functioned here for years, I reminded myself. I had a few friends and acquaintances here already, scattered from Watts to Baldwin Hills to Mullholland Drive, and I was sure they’d be happy if I decided to stay. If I were going to be in Hollywood for months, there was no point in raising the odds against me by hating it, or despising it; besides such an attitude seemed to obvious a defense against my fear of it. As hotels go, the Beverly hills is more congenial than most and certainly everyone there was very nice to me. And so I tried–too hard–to look about me with wonder, and be pleased. But I was already in trouble, and the odds against the venture were very long odds indeed.”
— James Baldwin, from “No Name in the Street”
Born 90 years ago on this day.
photo: James Baldwin in Los Angeles, 1969
AMERICAN MASTERS’ look at James Baldwin’s life and career is up on the PBS site — here. I haven’t watched this in quite some so am looking forward to revisiting.
Today would have been James Baldwin’s 89th birthday and yesterday, in honor of that, the Collectif James Baldwin Page posted this wonderful photo of a very young James Baldwin tackling his territory.
“Know from whence you came. If you know whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go.”
― James Baldwin
“The secret of his greatness does not lie in his voice or his presence or his manner, though it has something to do with all these; nor does it lie in his verbal range or felicity, which are not striking; nor does he have any capacity for those stunning, demagogic flights of the imagination which bring an audience cheering to its feet. The secret lies, I think, in his intimate knowledge of the people he is addressing, be they black or white, and in the forthrightness with which he speaks of those things which hurt and baffle them. He does not offer any easy comfort and this keeps his hearers absolutely tense. He allows them their self-respect—indeed, he insists on it.”
— James Baldwin on Martin Luther King from Harpers, 1961
photo: MLK at Cow Palace, SF 1964
“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
— James Baldwin, August 2, 1924 — December 1, 1987