James Baldwin on a Useful Past

“The paradox–and a fearful paradox it is–is that the American Negro can have no future anywhere, on any continent, as long as he is unwilling to accept his past. To accept one’s past–one’s history– is not the same thing as drowning in it; it is learning how to use it. An invented past can never be used; it cracks and crumbles under the pressures of life like clay in a season of drought. How can the American Negro’s past be used? The unprecedented price demanded–and at this embattled hour of the world’s history–is the transcendence of the realities of color, of nations, and of alters.”

James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

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