Not Everything That Is Faced Can Be Changed; But Nothing Can Be Changed Until It Is Faced

James Baldwin? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The prominent writer James Baldwin crafted a brilliant two part statement about purposeful literature:

Not everything that is faced can be changed.
But nothing can be changed until it is faced.

The word “everything” was converted to its antonym “nothing” in the second part. Also, the key words “faced” and “changed” were reordered. Thus, Baldwin employed a modified version of the ancient rhetorical technique of chiasmus. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1962 James Baldwin penned an essay titled “As Much Truth As One Can Bear” in “The New York Times Book Review”. He presented his thoughts about the crucial task of contemporary authors: Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

We are the generation that must throw everything into the endeavor to remake America into what we say we want it to be. Without this endeavor, we will perish.
. . .
Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced.

In 1989 the quotation appeared in “Webster’s New World Best Book of Aphorisms”: 2

Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.
—James Baldwin

In 1997 the saying appeared in “Reader’s Digest Quotable Quotes” 3 and in 2006 it appeared in “Wisdom for the Soul: Five Millennia of Prescriptions for Spiritual Healing”. 4

In conclusion, James Baldwin deserves credit for this remark.

(Thanks to the volunteer editors of Wikiquote and quotation specialists Barry Popik and Mardy Grothe who listed the 1962 citation for this quotation.)

Notes:

  1. 1962 January 14, The New York Times, Section: The New York Times Book Review, As Much Truth As One Can Bear by James Baldwin, Start Page BR1, Quote Page BR38, Column 5, New York. (ProQuest)
  2. 1989, Webster’s New World Best Book of Aphorisms by Auriel Douglas and Michael Strumpf, Topic: Change, Quote Page 72, Arco Publishing: A Division of Simon & Schuster, New York. (Verified with scans)
  3. 1997, Reader’s Digest Quotable Quotes: Wit and Wisdom for All Occasions, Quote Page 104,Published by Reader’s Digest Association, Pleasantville, New York. (Verified with hardcopy)
  4. 2006, Wisdom for the Soul: Five Millennia of Prescriptions for Spiritual Healing, Compiled and Edited by Larry Chang, Section: Change, Quote Page 114, Column 1, Gnosophia Publishers, Washington, D.C. (Verified with scans)