Celebrate James Baldwin’s Birthday With Powerful Words

The prolific writer and activist would have been 89 today.

By Akiba Solomon Aug 02, 2013

Author, activist and truth-teller James Baldwin was born today in 1924. To celebrate what would have been his 89th birthday, read this excerpt from his 1979 essay "If Black English Isn’t a Language Then Tell Me What Is":

It goes without saying, then, that language is also a political instrument, means, and proof of power. It is the most vivid and crucial key to identify: It reveals the private identity, and connects one with, or divorces one from, the larger, public, or communal identity. There have been, and are, times, and places, when to speak a certain language could be dangerous, even fatal. Or, one may speak the same language, but in such a way that one’s antecedents are revealed, or (one hopes) hidden.

For more Baldwin gems, check out Buzzfeed’s list of 25 powerful quotes and watch an excerpt of California Newsreel’s biographical film "The Price of the Ticket."  Happy birthday Mr. Baldwin!

h/t to @JohnnyGolightly