James Baldwin On Gaining Strength From The Past

James Baldwin quote, “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read."

To Learn Is To Be Empowered

Exemplary writer and social analyst James Baldwin urges you to learn as much as you can! Fundamental to this is reading and discovering more about the past. There is so much to uncover once you start digging!

As a proponent of equality and justice, much of what Baldwin wrote had to do with questioning social discriminations and prejudices. He deeply questioned the status quo and educated himself intensely on the the subjects of his passion. Baldwin subsequently shared his observations with those that would read or listen, highlighting for others his revelations.

James Baldwin thinking In front of a packed bookshelf.
Click the image to view his Pin Drop speech.

Baldwin’s Wisdom

So much of what he discovered involved learning about people’s pain and sorrow, but his insight was this; “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. 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, who had ever been alive.”

Baldwin’s words continue to provide comfort and courage to those who are currently struggling. Climate justice and environmental justice are closely intertwined with social justice. The fight rages on, and Baldwin reminds us not forget about the past. There is a lot to be learned from it! Including an understanding and sense of belonging, as well as support from those who have fought before.

Recommended Reading

For those looking to dive a little deeper, check out The Fire Next Time. Published in 1963, this thin book is actually two of Baldwin’s essays. These being, the “Letter to My Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Emancipation,” as well as a “Letter from a Region in My Mind.”

They offer further insight and continuity to the social struggles taking place today. Despite the years, these still feel very recent. Once again highlighting the need to learn from our past. We can and must learn from the efforts and sacrifices of those who have already given so much towards the advancement of progress.


We encourage our readers to borrow books when they can, but if you choose to purchase a copy, click here to order via Amazon, and support this blog in the process. 


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