Frederick Douglass Quotes


Frederick Douglass quotes are famous because he was a prominent abolitionist, writer, and orator who played a vital role in the fight against slavery and the advancement of civil rights.

Frederick Douglass, born around 1818 in Talbot County, Maryland, was an influential African-American abolitionist, orator, writer, and social reformer. He is recognized as one of the most prominent figures in the fight against slavery and a staunch advocate for equal rights for all.

Born into slavery, Douglass experienced the harsh realities of bondage firsthand. Despite the challenges, he demonstrated remarkable intelligence and a strong will to learn. Illegally taught to read and write by his slave owner’s wife, he began his journey towards intellectual emancipation. His thirst for knowledge intensified, and he voraciously devoured books and newspapers, broadening his understanding of the world.

In 1838, Douglass escaped slavery and made his way to New York City, where he changed his name to Frederick Douglass (inspired by a character in Sir Walter Scott’s poem “The Lady of the Lake”). He quickly became involved in the abolitionist movement, speaking passionately about the horrors of slavery and sharing his personal experiences as a former slave.

Douglass’s powerful speeches and eloquent writings resonated with audiences across the United States. His autobiographical work, “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave,” published in 1845, became a significant tool in exposing the brutality and inhumanity of slavery. The book’s success brought him international recognition and elevated him to the forefront of the abolitionist movement.

Throughout his life, Douglass tirelessly fought for the abolition of slavery and equal rights for African Americans. He advocated for women’s suffrage, education, and the rights of all marginalized groups. Douglass firmly believed in the power of education and knowledge to dismantle oppression and worked as an educator, establishing schools for African Americans.

During the American Civil War, Douglass served as an advisor to President Abraham Lincoln and actively supported the Union cause. He pushed for the recruitment of African American soldiers, recognizing the significance of their participation in the war effort.

After the Civil War, Douglass continued his advocacy work and was involved in the reconstruction efforts. He held various government positions, including serving as U.S. Marshal and Minister to Haiti. He also founded and edited several newspapers, such as “The North Star” and “Douglass’ Monthly,” which provided platforms for African American voices and promoted social justice.

Frederick Douglass’s tireless dedication to the fight against slavery and his unwavering commitment to equality and justice left an indelible mark on American history. His speeches and writings continue to inspire generations, and his life serves as a reminder of the power of resilience, education, and activism in the pursuit of freedom and equality. Frederick Douglass passed away on February 20, 1895, but his legacy as a champion of human rights lives on.

Frederick Douglass: Inspiring quotes on slavery and civil rights, leaving a powerful legacy of thought-provoking words.

Famous Frederick Douglass Quotes

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

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

It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men. - Frederick Douglass

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

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

5. “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.”

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

7. “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.”

8. “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.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

18. “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.”

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

20. “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.”

21. “The opposite of compromise is character.”

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

People might not get all they work for in this world, but they must certainly work for all they get. - Frederick douglass

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

24. “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.”

25. “One and God make a majority.”

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

27. “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.”

28. “Our destiny is largely in our hands.”

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

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

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

32. “What is possible for me is possible for you.”

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

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

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

36. “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.”

37. “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.”

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

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

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

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

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

The life of the nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful, and virtuous. - Frederick Douglass

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

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

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

46. “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.”

47. “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.”

48. “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.”

49. “Liberty for all; chains for none.”

50. “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.”

51. “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.”

52. “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.”

53. “There is no negro problem. The problem is whether the American people have loyalty enough, honor enough, patriotism enough, to live up to their own constitution.”

54. “The Constitution of the United States knows no distinction between citizens on account of color. Neither does it know any difference between a citizen of a state and a citizen of the United States.”

55. “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.”

56. “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.”

57. “Who would be free themselves must strike the blow. Better even to die free than to live slaves.”

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

59. “The sunlight that has brought life and healing to you has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth of July is yours, not mine.”

60. “A man is worked on by what he works on.”

61. “Truth is proper and beautiful in all times and in all places.”

Truth is proper and beautiful in all times and in all places. - Frederick Douglass

62. “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.”

63. “Civil war was not a mere strife for territory and dominion, but a contest of civilization against barbarism.”

64. “To make a contented slave it is necessary to make a thoughtless one. It is necessary to darken the moral and mental vision and, as far as possible, to annihilate the power of reason.”

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

66. “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.”

67. “Men are whipped oftenest who are whipped easiest.”

68. “Oppression makes a wise man mad.”

69. “I glory in conflict that I may hereafter exult in victory.”

70. “It is better to be part of a great whole than to be the whole of a small part.”

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

72. “We are free to say that in respect to political rights, we hold women to be justly entitled to all we claim for men.”

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

74. “Beat and cuff your slave, keep him hungry and spiritless, and he will follow the chain of his master like a dog. Feed and clothe him well, work him moderately, surround him with physical comfort and dreams of freedom intrude.”

75. “Men and women, old and young, married and single, were ranked with horses, sheep, and swine.”

76. “In all the relations of life and death, we are met by the color line.”

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

78. “Opportunity is important but exertion is indispensable.”

79. “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.”

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

81. “It was unlawful, as well as unsafe, to teach a slave to read.”

It was unlawful, as well as unsafe, to teach a slave to read.- Frederick Douglass

82. “Intelligence is a great leveler here as elsewhere.”

83. “Educate your sons and daughters, send them to school, and show them that beside the cartridge box, the ballot box, and the jury box, you also have the knowledge box.”

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

85. “A great man, tender of heart, strong of nerve, boundless patience and broadest sympathy, with no motive apart from his country.”

86. “The silver trump of freedom had roused my soul to eternal wakefulness. Freedom now appeared, to disappear no more forever. It was heard in every sound, and seen in every thing.”

87. “He who would be free must strike the first blow.”

88. “I love the religion of Christianity – which cometh from above – which is a pure, peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of good fruits, and without hypocrisy.”

89. “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.”

90. “We succeed, not alone by the laborious exertions of our faculties, be they small or great, but by the regular, thoughtful and systematic exercise of them.”

91. “Experience proves that those are oftenest abused who can be abused with the greatest impunity. Men are whipped oftenest who are whipped easiest.”

92. “As those who believe in the visibility of ghosts can easily see them, so it is always easy to see repulsive qualities in those we despise and hate.”

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

94. “Praying for freedom never did me any good til I started praying with my feet.”

95. “Slaves were expected to sing as well as to work. A silent slave was not liked, either by masters or overseers.”

96. “Instead of the bright, blue sky of America, I am covered with the soft, grey fog of the Emerald Isle. I breathe, and lo! the chattel becomes a man.”

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

98. “What I ask for the Negro is not benevolence, not pity, not sympathy, but simply justice.”

99. “Shields Green was not one to shrink from hardships or dangers. He was a man of few words, and his speech was singularly broken; but his courage and self-respect made him quite a dignified character.”

100. “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.”

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