An African-American statesman who lived during the nineteenth century, Frederick Douglass had a remarkable career as a politician, abolitionist, social reformer, writer and orator. Not only that, but he himself escaped from slavery, and as such he served as an inspiring example in his time of the potential of slaves to work as independent citizens. His quotes are timeless in their wisdom.
It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.
If there is no struggle, there is no progress.
Without a struggle, there can be no progress.
Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground.
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.
The thing worse than rebellion is the thing that causes rebellion.
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.
I didn’t know I was a slave until I found out I couldn’t do the things I wanted.
I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.
The white man’s happiness cannot be purchased by the black man’s misery.
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.
Some know the value of education by having it. I know its value by not having it.
The American people have this to learn: that 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 person nor property is safe.
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.
The life of a nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful, and virtuous.
To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker.
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.
I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong.
People might not get all they work for in this world, but they must certainly work for all they get.
Knowledge makes a man unfit to be a slave.
Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.
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.
Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are people who want crops without ploughing the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it may be both. But it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.
I prayed for freedom for twenty years, but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.
Slaves are generally expected to sing as well as to work.
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.
A gentleman will not insult me, and no man not a gentleman can insult me.
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.
I had as well be killed running as die standing.
The destiny of the colored American … is the destiny of America.
Though conscious of the difficulty of learning without a teacher, I set out with high hope, and a fixed purpose, at whatever cost or trouble, to learn how to read.
The man who is right is a majority. We, who have God and conscience on our side, have a majority against the universe.
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.
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.
Without education he lives within the narrow, dark and grimy walls of ignorance. Education, on the other hand, 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. To deny education to any people is one of the greatest crimes against human nature. It is easy to deny them the means of freedom and the rightful pursuit of happiness and to defeat the very end of their being.
Old as the everlasting hills; immovable as the throne of God; and certain as the purposes of eternal power, against all hindrances, and against all delays, and despite all the mutations of human instrumentalities, it is the faith of my soul that this…cause will triumph.
Right is of no sex, truth is of no color, God is the Father of us all, and we are all brethren.
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.
I love that religion which sends its votaries to bind up the wounds of those who have fallen among thieves.
Men have their choice in this world. They can be angels, or they may be demons.
Intelligence is a great leveler here as elsewhere.
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.
Poverty, ignorance and degradation are the combined evils, these constitute the social disease of the free colored people of the US.
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.
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.
Self-Made Men are those who owe little or nothing to birth, relationship, or friendly surroundings; to wealth inherited or to early approved means of education; who are what they are, without the aid of any favoring conditions by which other men usually rise in the world and achieve great results. . . They are in a peculiar sense indebted to themselves for themselves.
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.
The next best thing to success is a valid apology for non-success. It possesses the means of covering the small with the glory of the great.
Opportunity is important but exertion is indispensable.
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.