Frederick Douglass Quotes

250+ Best Frederick Douglass Quotes, Freedom And Powerful

Frederick Douglass Quotes
Frederick Douglas was an American social reformer, abolitionist, writer, and orator whose work helped educate people about the horrors of slavery and move the abolitionist movement forward. If you are looking for some of the best Frederick Douglass Quotes then you have come to the right place. Because here is a huge collection of the best Frederick Douglass Quotes for you.

We’ve collected the best Frederick Douglass Quotes for you from various sources over the years. You can learn a lot about Frederick Douglass from here. A writer, orator, and extinct figure whose work has made the United States a powerful nation, Frederick Douglas was an inspiration whose legacy will live on for centuries to come.

Born into slavery in 1818, Douglas taught himself to read and write before escaping slavery in 1838. In the early 1840s, he began attending meetings of the abolitionist movement and later became the national leader of the movement in Massachusetts and New York. Even after the Civil War, Douglas was active for equality, freedom and human rights. He died in 1895 of a heart attack.

So here are some inspiring, powerful and informative Frederick Douglass Quotes for you guys that will always inspire you to stand up for what is right.

Best Frederick Douglass Quotes

“When a great truth once gets abroad in the world, no power on earth can imprison it, or prescribe its limits, or suppress it. It is bound to go on till it becomes the thought of the world.”

“In studying the character and works of a great man, it is always desirable to learn in what he is distinguished from others, and what have been the causes of this difference.”

“It is no disparagement to truth, that it can only prevail where reason prevails. War begins where reason ends. The thing worse than rebellion is the thing that causes rebellion.”“Your faculties remained yours, and mine became useful to their rightful owner.”

“Genealogical trees do not flourish among slaves.”

“No man can be truly free whose liberty is dependent upon the thought, feeling and action of others, and who has himself no means in his own hands for guarding, protecting, defending and maintaining that liberty.”

“I am a Republican, a black, dyed in the wool Republican, and I never intend to belong to any other party than the party of freedom and progress.”

“What to the Slave is the 4th of July.”

“Should a slave, when assaulted, but raise his hand in self defense, the white assaulting party is fully justified by southern, or Maryland, public opinion, in shooting the slave down.”

“Right is of no sex, Truth is of no color, God is the Father of us all, and we are all Brethren.”

“This will be seen by the fact that the slaveholders like to have their slaves spend those days just in such a manner as to make them as glad of their ending as of their beginning. Their object seems to be, to disgust their slaves with freedom, by plunging them into the lowest depths of dissipation.”

“Some know the value of education by having it. I know its value by not having it.”

“I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and incur my own abhorrence.”

“I expose slavery in this country, because to expose it is to kill it. Slavery is one of those monsters of darkness to whom the light of truth is death.”

“The man who is right is a majority. He who has God and conscience on his side, has a majority against the universe.”

“The thought of only being a creature of the present and past was troubling. I longed for a future too, with hope in it. The desire to be free awakened my determination to act, to think, and to speak.”

“The white man’s happiness cannot be purchased by the black man’s misery.”

“A man without force, is without the essential dignity of humanity. Human nature is so constituted, that it cannot honor a helpless man, although it can pity him.”

“No man can put a chain about the ankle of his fellow man without at last finding the other end fastened about his own neck.”

“My hopes were never brighter than now.”

“You have to take power. No one gives it.”

“The singing of a man cast away upon a desolate island might be as appropriately considered as evidence of contentment and happiness, as the singing of a slave; the songs of the one and of the other are prompted by the same emotion.”

“Slaves sing most when they are most unhappy. The songs of the slave represent the sorrows of his heart; and he is relieved by them, only as an aching heart is relieved by its tears.”

“If we ever get free from all the oppressions and wrongs heaped upon us, we must pay for their removal. We must do this by labor, by suffering, by sacrifice, and, if needs be, by our lives, and the lives of others.”

“You degrade us and then ask why we are degraded. You shut our mouths and ask why we don’t speak. You close your colleges and seminaries against us and then ask why we don’t know.”

“To enslave men successfully and safely, it is necessary to have their minds occupied with thoughts and aspirations short of the liberty of which they are deprived. A certain degree of attainable good must be kept before them.”

“The American people are disposed often to be generous rather than just.”

“Your faculties remained yours, and mine became useful to their rightful owner.”

“One and God make a majority.”

“It is nevertheless plain that a very different-looking class of people are springing up at the south, and are now held in slavery, from those originally brought to this country from Africa; and if their increase will do no other good, it will do away the force of the argument that God cursed Ham, and therefore American slavery is right.”

Perfect Frederick Douglass Quotes

“At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed.”

“The thought of only being a creature of the present and past was troubling. I longed for a future too, with hope in it. The desire to be free, awakened my determination to act, to think, and to speak.”

“A man without force, is without the essential dignity of humanity. Human nature is so constituted that it cannot honor a helpless man, although it can pity him.”

“Without a struggle, there can be no progress.”

“Freedom is a road seldom traveled by the multitude.”

“I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ; I therefore hatethe corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial, and hypocritical Christianity of this land. Indeed, I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one, for calling the religion of this land Christianity. I look upon it as the climax of all misnomers, the boldest of all frauds, and the grossest of all libels.”

“Going to live in Baltimore laid the foundation, and opened the gateway to all my subsequent prosperity.”

“In the darkest hours of my career in slavery, this living word of faith and spirit of hope departed not from me, but remained like ministering angels to cheer me through the gloom. This good spirit was from God, and to Him I offer thanksgiving and praise.”

“Welcome, welcome joy, welcome sorrow, welcome pleasure, welcome pain. You are all the ingredients of life—and with you all, life is an inestimable blessing.”

“It is not light that we need, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.”

“Mr. Lincoln was not only a great President, but a great man—too great to be small in anything. In his company I was never in any way reminded of my humble origin, or of my unpopular color.”

“Men talk much of a new birth. The fact is fundamental. But the mistake is in treating it as an incident which can only happen to a man once in a lifetime: whereas the whole journey of life is a succession of them. A new life springs up in the soul with the discovery of every new agency by which the soul is raised to a higher level of wisdom: goodness and joy.”

“When, therefore, it shall be asked what we have to do with the memory of Abraham Lincoln, or what Abraham Lincoln had to do with us, the answer is ready, full, and complete. Though he loved Caesar less than Rome, though the Union was more to him than our freedom or our future, under his wise and beneficent rule we saw ourselves gradually lifted from the depths of slavery to the heights of liberty and manhood.”

“I have sometimes thought that the mere hearing of those songs would do more to impress some minds with the horrible character of slavery, than the reading of whole volumes of philosophy on the subject could do.”

“To enslave men, successfully and safely, it is necessary to have their minds occupied with thoughts and aspirations short of the liberty of which they are deprived. A certain degree of attainable good must be kept before them.”

“I had reached the point, at which I was not afraid to die. This spirit made me a free man, in fact, while I remained a slave in form.”

“They are thought pictures—the outstanding headlands of the meandering shores of life, and are points to steer by on the broad sea of thought and experience. They body forth in living forms and colors the ever varying lights and shadows of the soul.”

“The life of a nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful, and virtuous.”

“I assert most unhesitatingly, that the religion of the South is a mere covering for the most horrid crimes—a justifier of the most appalling barbarity…a shelter under…which the darkest, foulest, grossest, and most infernal deeds of slaveholders find the strongest protection”

“A battle lost or won is easily described, understood, and appreciated, but the moral growth of a great nation requires reflection, as well as observation, to appreciate it.”

“Immense wealth and its lavish expenditure, fill the great house with all that can please the eye, or tempt the taste. Here, appetite, not food, is the great desideratum.”

“We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and the future.”

“You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man.”

“Right is of no sex. Truth is of no color. God is the Father of us all, and we are all brethren.”

“The man who will get up will be helped up; and the man who will not get up will be allowed to stay down.”

“I believe in individuality, but individuals are to the mass, like waves to the ocean. The highest order of genius is as dependent as the lowest. It, like the loftiest waves of the sea, derives its power from the grandeur and vastness of the ocean of which it forms a part. We differ as the waves, but are one as the sea.”

“Who would be free themselves must strike the blow. I urge you to fly to arms and smite to death the power that would bury the government and your liberty in the same hopeless grave. This is your golden opportunity.”

Progress Frederick Douglass Quotes

“Liberty is meaningless where the right to utter one’s thoughts and opinions has ceased to exist. That, of all rights, is the dread of tyrants. It is the right which they, first of all, strike down.”

“You will be free as soon as you are twenty-one, but I am a slave for life! Have not I as good a right to be free as you have?”

“If you’re enjoying these quotes, make sure to read John Brown quotes.

“Freedom now appeared, to disappear no more forever. It was heard in every sound and seen in every thing. It was very present to torment me with a sense of my wretched condition. I saw nothing without seeing it, I heard nothing without hearing it, and felt nothing without feeling it. It looked from every star, it smiled in every calm, breathed in every wind, and moved in every storm.”

“The destiny of the colored American … is the destiny of America.”

“Reader! Are you with the man-stealers in sympathy and purpose, or on the side of their down-trodden victims? If with the former, then you are the foe of God and man.”

“A man’s character always takes its hue, more or less, from the form and color of things about him.”“People might not get all they work for in this world, but they must certainly work for all they get.”

“They told a tale of woe which was then altogether beyond my feeble comprehension; they were tones loud, long, and deep; they breathed the prayer and complaint of souls boiling over with bitterest anguish. Every tone was a testimony against slavery, and a prayer to God for deliverance from chains.”

“There is not a man beneath the canopy of heaven, that does not know that slavery is wrong for him.”

“They cannot degrade Frederick Douglass. The soul that is within me no man can degrade. I am not the one that is being degraded on account of this treatment, but those who are inflicting it upon me.”

“Liberty is meaningless where the right to utter one’s thoughts and opinions has ceased to exist. That, of all rights, is the dread of tyrants. It is the right which they first of all strike down. They know its power. Thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers, founded in injustice and wrong, are sure to tremble if men are allowed to reason.”

“They seemed to think that the greatness of their masters was transferable to themselves. It was considered as being bad enough to be a slave; but to be a poor man’s slave was deemed a disgrace indeed!”

“I had as well be killed running as die standing.”

“Men talk of the Negro problem. There is no Negro problem. The problem is whether the American people have honesty enough, loyalty enough, honor enough, patriotism enough, to live up to their constitution.”

“Truth shines with brighter light and intenser heat at every moment, and a country torn and rent and bleeding implores relief from its distress and agony.”

“Experience is a keen teacher.”

“What I have said respecting and against religion, I mean strictly to apply to the slaveholding religion of this land, and with no possible reference to Christianity proper; for between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference—so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked.”

“To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony.”

“It is no disparagement to truth, that it can only prevail where reason prevails. War begins where reason ends. The thing worse than rebellion is the thing that causes rebellion.”

“A smile or a tear has no nationality; joy and sorrow speak alike to all nations, and they, above all the confusion of tongues, proclaim the brotherhood of man.”

“It may, perhaps, be fairly questioned, whether any other portion of the population of the earth could have endured the privations, sufferings and horrors of slavery, without having become more degraded in the scale of humanity than the slaves of African descent.”

“What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July? I answer: A day that reveals to him, more than all other days of the year, the gross injustices and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him your celebration is a sham.”

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Freedom Frederick Douglass Quotes

“You are not judged by the height you have risen, but from the depth you have climbed.”

“I could, as a free man, look across the bay toward the Eastern shore where I was born a slave.”

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

“Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground.”

“I speak advisedly when I say this—that killing a slave, or any colored person, in Talbot county, Maryland, is not treated as a crime, either by the courts or the community.”

“The opposite of compromise is character.”

“Mr. Lincoln was not only a great President, but a great man – too great to be small in anything. In his company I was never in any way reminded of my humble origin, or of my unpopular color.”

“No man whose vision is bounded by colour can come into contact with what is highest and best in the world.”

“A man’s character always takes its hue, more or less, from the form and color of things about him.”

“For no man who lives at all lives unto himself. He either helps or hinders all who are in anywise connected to him.”

“He was whipped oftener who was whipped easiest.”

“For of all slaveholders with whom I have ever met, religious slaveholders are the worst. I have ever found them the meanest and basest, the most cruel and cowardly, of all others.”

“This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”

“They suppress the truth rather than take the consequence of telling it, and in so doing prove themselves a part of the human family.”

“Without any appeal to books, to laws, or to authorities of any kind, it was enough to accept God as a father, to regard slavery as a crime. I”

“When I went into their family, it was the abode of happiness and contentment. The mistress of the house was a model of affection and tenderness. Her fervent piety and watchful uprightness made it impossible to see her without thinking and feeling—‘that woman is a Christian.’”

“The American Constitution is a written instrument full and complete in itself. No Court in America, no Congress, no President, can add a single word thereto, or take a single word threreto. It is a great national enactment done by the people, and can only be altered, amended, or added to by the people.”

“All of this added weight to his reputation as a ‘nigger-breaker.’”

“When men sow the wind it is rational to expect that they will reap the whirlwind.”

“The morality of free society can have no application to slave society. Make a man a slave, and you rob him of moral responsibility. Freedom of choice is the essence of all accountability.”

“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”

“The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppose.”

“Without any appeal to books, to laws, or to authorities of any kind, it was enough to accept God as a father, to regard slavery as a crime.”

“Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground.”

“A man who will enslave his own blood, may not be safely relied on for magnamity.”

“One by one I have seen obstacles removed, errors corrected, prejudices softened, proscriptions relinquished, and my people advancing in all the elements that go to make up the sum of the general welfare. And I remember that God reigns in eternity, and that whatever delays, whatever disappointments and discouragements may come, truth, justice, liberty and humanity will ultimately prevail.”

“I have found that, to make a contented slave, it is necessary to make a thoughtless one.”

“I prayed for freedom for twenty years, but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.”

“Slavery is indeed gone, but its shadow still lingers over the country and poisons more or less the moral atmosphere of all sections of the republic.”

“We were both victims to the same overshadowing evil—she, as mistress, I, as slave.”

“Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them.”

“I know there is a hope in religion; I know there is faith and I know there is prayer about religion and necessary to it, but God is most glorified when there is peace on earth and good will towards men.”

“Men who live by robbing their fellow men of their labor and liberty have forfeited their right to know anything of the thoughts, feelings, or purposes of those whom they rob and plunder. They have, by the single act of slaveholding, voluntarily placed themselves beyond the laws of justice and honor, and have become only fitted for companionship with thieves and pirates—the common enemies of God and of all mankind.”

“Power concedes nothing without demand. It never has and never will. Show me the exact amount of wrong and injustices that are visited upon a person and I will show you the exact amount of words endured by these people.”

“As a people, Americans are remarkably familiar with all facts which make in their own favor.”

“The arm of the Federal government is long, but it is far too short to protect the rights of individuals in the interior of distant States. They must have the power to protect themselves, or they will go unprotected, spite of all the laws the Federal government can put upon the national statute-book.”

“Education means emancipation. It means light and liberty. It means the uplifting of the soul of man into the glorious light of truth—the light by which men can only be made free.”

Powerful Frederick Douglass Quotes

“The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”

“I have no accurate knowledge of my age, never having seen any authentic record containing it.”

“From apparently the basest metals we have the finest toned bells.”

“I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine.”

“I would unite with anybody to do right; and with nobody to do wrong.”

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle.”

“Is it possible for the human mind to conceive of a more horrible state of society?”

“When I think that these precious souls are today shut up in the prison-house of slavery, my feelings overcome me, and I am almost ready to ask, ‘Does a righteous God govern the universe?’”

“Some know the value of education by having it. I knew its value by not having it.”

“The destiny of the colored American is the destiny of America.”

“Liberty is meaningless where the right to utter one’s thoughts and opinions has ceased to exist. That, of all rights, is the dread of tyrants. It is the right which they first of all strike down.”

“I know of no rights of race superior to the rights of humanity…”

“A worship that can be conducted by persons who refuse to give shelter to the houseless, to give bread to the hungry, clothing to the naked, and who enjoin obedience to a law forbidding these acts of mercy, is a curse, not a blessing to mankind.”

“I will give Mr. Freeland the credit of being the best master I ever had, till I became my own master.”

“They attend with Pharisaical strictness to the outward forms of religion, and at the same time neglect the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith. They are always ready to sacrifice, but seldom to show mercy. They are they who are represented as professing to love God whom they have not seen, whilst they hate their brother whom they have seen.”

“A slave is someone who sits down, and waits for someone to free them.”

“I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong.”

“Education means emancipation. It means light and liberty. It means the uplifting of the soul of man into the glorious light of truth, the light by which men can only be made free.”

“The soul that is within me no man can degrade.”

“To be accused was to be convicted, and to be convicted was to be punished; the one always following the other with immutable certainty.”

“I speak advisedly when I say this,—that killing a slave, or any colored person, in Talbot county, Maryland, is not treated as a crime, either by the courts or the community.”

“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

“It was worth half-cent to kill a ‘nigger’, and a half-cent to bury one.”

“Our destiny is largely in our hands.”

“Whatever the future may have in store for us, one thing is certain; this new revolution in human thought will never go backward. When a great truth once gets abroad in the world, no power on earth can imprison it, or prescribe its limits, or suppress it. It is bound to go on till it becomes the thought of the world.”

“The white man’s happiness cannot be purchased by the black man’s misery.”

“Beware of a Yankee when he is feeding.”

“I have said that the Declaration of Independence is the ring-bolt to the chain of your nation’s destiny; so, indeed, I regard it. The principles contained in that instrument are saving principles. Stand by those principles, be true to them on all occasions, in all places, against all foes, and at whatever cost.”

“I do not remember to have ever met a slave who could tell of his birthday.”

“There is a class of people who seem to think that if a man should fall overboard into the sea with a Bible in his pocket it would hardly be possible to drown. I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.”

“I say nothing of father, for he is shrouded in a mystery I have never been able to penetrate. Slavery does away with fathers, as it does away with families. Slavery has no use for either fathers or families, and its laws do not recognize their existence in the social arrangements of the plantation.”

“This war, disguise it as they may, is virtually nothing more or less than perpetual slavery against universal freedoms.”

“A man is worked upon by what he works on. He may carve out his circumstances, but his circumstances will carve him out as well.”

“Slaves are generally expected to sing as well as to work.”

“In a composite nation like ours, as before the law, there should be no rich, no poor, no high, no low, no white, no black, but common country, common citizenship, equal rights and a common destiny.”

“They love the heathen on the other side of the globe. They can pray for him, pay money to have the Bible put into his hand, and missionaries to instruct him; while they despise and totally neglect the heathen at their own doors. Such is, very briefly, my view of the religion of this land.”

“Right is of no Sex-Truth is of no Color-God is the Father of us all, and we are all Brethren.”

“Slavery soon proved its ability to divest her of these excellent qualities, and her home of its early happiness. Conscience cannot stand much violence.”

“My natural elasticity was crushed, my intellect languished, the disposition to read departed, the cheerful spark that lingered about my eye died; the dark night of slavery closed in upon me; and behold a man transformed into a brute!”

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Frederick Douglass Quotes of Life

“I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ; I therefore hate the corrupt, slave-holding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land.”

“In life you don’t get everything you pay for, but you must pay for everything you get.”

“The life of the nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful, and virtuous.”

“Man’s greatness consists in his ability to do, and the proper application of his powers to things needed to be done.”

“The silver trump of freedom roused in my soul eternal wakefulness.”

“Men have their choice in this world. They can be angels, or they may be demons.”

“You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a

“Going to live at Baltimore laid the foundation, and opened the gateway, to all my subsequent prosperity. I have ever regarded it as the first plain manifestation of that kind providence which has ever since attended me, and marked my life with so many favors.”

“I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.”

“Let us render the tyrant no aid; let us not hold the light by which he can trace the footprints of our flying brother.”

“If the Negro knows enough to pay taxes to support the government, he knows enough to vote; taxation and representation should go together. If he knows enough to shoulder a musket and fight for the flag, fight for the government, he knows enough to vote.”

“Every one of us should be ashamed to be free while his brother is a slave.”

“In the struggle for justice, the only reward is the opportunity to be in the struggle. You can’t expect that you’re going to have it tomorrow. You just have to keep working on it.”

“A man’s rights rest in three boxes: the ballot box, the jury box, and the cartridge box.”

“If a slave has a bad master, his ambition is to get a better; when he gets a better, he aspires to have the best; and when he gets the best, he aspires to be his own master.”

“The better you treat a slave, the more you destroy his value as a slave, and enhance the probability of his eluding the grasp of the slaveholder; the more kindly you treat him, the more wretched you make him, while you keep him in the condition of a slave.”

“He treated me as a man… He did not let me feel for a moment that there was any difference in the color of our skins.”

“Stars shall fall from heaven.”

“We may explain success mainly by one word and that word is WORK! WORK!! WORK!!! WORK!!!!”

“The story of our inferiority is an old dodge, as I have said; for wherever men oppress their fellows, wherever they enslave them, they will endeavor to find the needed apology for such enslavement and oppression in the character of the people oppressed and enslaved.”

“The life of the nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful and virtuous.”

“The Christianity of America is a Christianity of whose votaries it may be as truly said, as it was of the ancient scribes and Pharisees. They bind heavy burdens and grievances to be borne and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.”

“Laying aside all prejudice in favor of or against race, looking at the negro as politically and socially related to the American people generally, and measuring the forces arrayed against him, I do not see how he can survive and flourish in this country as a distinct and separate race, nor do I see how he can be removed from the country either by annihilation or expatriation.”

“But I should be false in the earliest sentiments of my soul, if I suppressed the opinion.”

“I had a wholesome dread of the consequences of running in debt.”

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”

“Reason is imprisoned here, and passions run wild. Like the fires of the prairie, once lighted, they are at the mercy of every wind and must burn till they have consumed all that is combustible within their remorseless grasp.”

“This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.”

“What upon Earth is the matter with the American people? Do they really covet the world’s ridicule as well as their own social and political ruin?”

“Fugitive slaves were rare then, and as a fugitive slave lecturer, I had the advantage of being the first one out.”

“To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker.”

“Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning.”

“Some know the value of education by having it. I know it’s value by not having it.”

“The relation between the white and colored people of this country is the great, paramount, imperative, and all-commanding question for this age and nation to solve.”

“A gentleman will not insult me, and no man not a gentleman can insult me.”

“There is not, beneath the sky, an enemy to filial affection so destructive as slavery. It had made my brothers and sisters strangers to me; it converted the mother that bore me, into a myth; it shrouded my father in mystery, and left me without an intelligible beginning in the world.”

“No one idea has given rise to more oppression and persecution toward colored people of this country than that which makes Africa, not America, their home.”

“Man’s greatness consists in his ability to do and the proper application of his powers to things needed to be done.”

“For my part, I should prefer death to hopeless bondage.”

“People might not get all they work for in this world, but they must certainly work for all they get.”

“A little learning, indeed, may be a dangerous thing, but the want of learning is a calamity to any people.”

“The control of events has been taken out of our hands. We have fallen into the mighty current of eternal principles—invisible forces—which are shaping and fashioning events as they wish, using us only as instruments to work out their own results in our national destiny.”

Frederick Douglass Quotes

“The thing worse than rebellion is the thing that causes rebellion.”

“Slavery blunts the edge of all our rebukes of tyranny abroad—the criticisms that we make upon other nations, only call forth ridicule, contempt, and scorn. In a word, we are made a reproach and a by-word to a mocking earth, and we must continue to be so made, so long as slavery continues to pollute our soil.”

“A man must be disposed to judge of emancipation by other tests than whether it has increased the produce of sugar, and to hate slavery for other reasons than because it starves men and whips women, before he is ready to lay the first stone of his anti-slavery life.”

“Neither we, nor any other people, will ever be respected till we respect ourselves and we will never respect ourselves till we have the means to live respectfully.”

“There is not a man beneath the canopy of Heaven who does not know that slavery is wrong for him.”

“The man who will get up will be helped up, and the man who will not get up will be allowed to stay down.”

“We have men sold to build churches, women sold to support the gospel, and babes sold to purchase Bibles for the poor heathen—all for the glory of God and the good of souls.”

“My long-crushed spirit rose, cowardice departed, bold defiance took its place; and I now resolved that however long I might remain a slave in form, the day had passed forever when I could be a slave in fact.”

“If we ought to forget a war which has filled our land with widows and orphans; which has made stumps of men of the very flower of our youth; which has sent them on the journey of life armless, legless, maimed and mutilated; which has piled up a debt heavier than a mountain of gold, swept uncounted thousands of men into bloody graves and planted agony at a million hearthstones. I say, if this war is to be forgotten, I ask, in the name of all things sacred, what shall men remember?”

“Experience is a keen teacher;”

“The American people are not remarkable for moderation. They despise halfness. They will go with him who goes farthest and stay with him who stays longest. What the country thinks of half-men and half-measures is seen by the last election. We repudiate all such men and all such measures.”

“I didn’t know I was a slave until I found out I couldn’t do the things I wanted.”

“Having no resources within himself, he was compelled to be the copyist of many, and being such, he was forever the victim of inconsistency.”

“I recognize the Republican party as the sheet anchor of the colored man’s political hopes and the ark of his safety.”

“No people to whom liberty is given can hold it as firmly and wear it as grandly as those who wrench their liberty from the iron hand of the tyrant.”

“A smile or a tear has not nationality; joy and sorrow speak alike to all nations, and they, above all the confusion of tongues, proclaim the brotherhood of man.”

“The marriage institution cannot exist among slaves, and one sixth of the population of democratic America is denied it’s privileges by the law of the land. What is to be thought of a nation boasting of its liberty, boasting of it’s humanity, boasting of its Christianity, boasting of its love of justice and purity, and yet having within its own borders three millions of persons denied by law the right of marriage?”

“I do not think much of the good luck theory of self-made men. It is worth but little attention and has no practical value.”

“Knowledge makes a man unfit to be a slave.”

“A man’s troubles are always half disposed of when he finds endurance the only alternative.”

“The American people have always been anxious to know what they shall do with us… I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us! If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are worm-eaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall! … And if the negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs.”

“I will unite with anyone to do good, but with no one to do harm.”

“Inaction is followed by stagnation. Stagnation is followed by pestilence, and pestilence is followed by death.”

“The slave auctioneer’s bell and the church-going bell chime in with each other, and the bitter cries of the heart-broken slave are drowned in the religious shouts of his pious master. Revivals of religion and revivals in the slave trade go hand in hand.”

“It was considered as being bad enough to be a slave; but to be a poor man’s slave was deemed a disgrace indeed!”

“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”

“A man who will enslave his own blood, may not be safely relied on for magnanimity.”

“Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future.”

“I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ; I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial, and hypocritical Christianity of this land.”

“Men talk of the Negro problem. There is no Negro problem. The problem is whether the American people have honesty enough, loyalty enough, honor enough, patriotism enough to live up to their Constitution”

“At this moment, I saw more clearly than ever the brutalizing effects of slavery upon the slave and slaveholder.”

“I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence.”

“Interpreted as it ought to be interpreted, the constitution is a Glorious Liberty Document!”

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