A child cannot be taught by anyone who despises him, and a child cannot afford to be fooled.
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.
Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.
Be careful what you set your heart upon – for it will surely be yours.
Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.
Education is indoctrination if you’re white – subjugation if you’re black.
Every legend, moreover, contains its residuum of truth, and the root function of language is to control the universe by describing it.
Everybody’s journey is individual. If you fall in love with a boy, you fall in love with a boy. The fact that many Americans consider it a disease says more about them than it does about homosexuality.
Fires can’t be made with dead embers, nor can enthusiasm be stirred by spiritless men. Enthusiasm in our daily work lightens effort and turns even labor into pleasant tasks.
Hatred, which could destroy so much, never failed to destroy the man who hated, and this was an immutable law.
I am what time, circumstance, history, have made of me, certainly, but I am also, much more than that. So are we all.
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.
I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.
I want to be an honest man and a good writer.
I’ve always believed that you can think positive just as well as you can think negative.
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.
It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.
It is very nearly impossible… to become an educated person in a country so distrustful of the independent mind.
It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.
Life is tragic simply because the earth turns and the sun inexorably rises and sets, and one day, for each of us, the sun will go down for the last, last time.
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.
Love him and let him love you. Do you think anything else under heaven really matters?
Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.
Money, it turned out, was exactly like sex, you thought of nothing else if you didn’t have it and thought of other things if you did.
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.
No one can possibly know what is about to happen: it is happening, each time, for the first time, for the only time.
No people come into possession of a culture without having paid a heavy price for it.
Nobody is more dangerous than he who imagines himself pure in heart; for his purity, by definition, is unassailable.
Nothing is more desirable than to be released from an affliction, but nothing is more frightening than to be divested of a crutch.
People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them.
People can cry much easier than they can change.
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.
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.
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.
The face of a lover is an unknown, precisely because it is invested with so much of oneself. It is a mystery, containing, like all mysteries, the possibility of torment.
The future is like heaven, everyone exalts it, but no one wants to go there now.
The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose.
The noblest spirit is most strongly attracted by the love of glory.
The only thing that white people have that black people need, or should want, is power-and no one holds power forever.
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.
The power of the white world is threatened whenever a black man refuses to accept the white world’s definitions.
The price one pays for pursuing any profession, or calling, is an intimate knowledge of its ugly side.
The question of sexual dominance can exist only in the nightmare of that soul which has armed itself, totally, against the possibility of the changing motion of conquest and surrender, which is love.
The questions which one asks oneself begin, at least, to illuminate the world, and become one’s key to the experience of others.
The world is before you and you need not take it or leave it as it was when you came in.
The writer’s greed is appalling. He wants, or seems to want, everything and practically everybody, in another sense, and at the same time, he needs no one at all.
The young think that failure is the Siberian end of the line, banishment from all the living, and tend to do what I then did – which was to hide.
There are few things more dreadful than dealing with a man who knows he is going under, in his own eyes, and in the eyes of others. Nothing can help that man. What is left of that man flees from what is left of human attention.
There is a “sanctity” involved with bringing a child into this world: it is better than bombing one out of it.
There is never time in the future in which we will work out our salvation. The challenge is in the moment; the time is always now.
Those who say it can’t be done are usually interrupted by others doing it.
To act is to be committed, and to be committed is to be in danger.
To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.
To be sensual, I think, is to respect and rejoice in the force of life, of life itself, and to be present in all that one does, from the effort of loving to the making of bread.
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.
When a man asks himself what is meant by action he proves that he isn’t a man of action. Action is a lack of balance. In order to act you must be somewhat insane. A reasonably sensible man is satisfied with thinking.
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.