Frederick Douglass Quotes

By | 07.07.2022
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Best Frederick Douglass quotes

Once you learn to read, you will be forever free. Frederick Douglass

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

Without a struggle, there can be no progress. Frederick Douglass

Experience is a keen teacher. Frederick Douglass

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. Frederick Douglass

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. Frederick Douglass

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

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

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

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. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Frederick Douglass, Frederick Douglass: Selected Speeches and Writings

At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. Frederick Douglass

Some know the value of education by having it. I know its value by not having it. Frederick Douglass

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

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. Frederick Douglass

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. 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. Frederick Douglass

The thing worse than rebellion is the thing that causes rebellion. Frederick Douglass

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

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

The soul that is within me no man can degrade. Frederick Douglass

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. Frederick Douglass

I prayed for freedom for twenty years, but received no answer until I prayed with my legs. Frederick Douglass, Autobiographies: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass / My Bondage and My Freedom / Life and Times of Frederick Douglass

One and God make a majority. Frederick Douglass

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. Frederick Douglass

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? Frederick Douglass

The white man’s happiness cannot be purchased by the black man’s misery. Frederick Douglass

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

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

Grandmother pointed out my brother Perry, my sister Sarah, and my sister Eliza, who stood in the group. I had never seen my brother nor my sisters before; and, though I had sometimes heard of them, and felt a curious interest in them, I really did not understand what they were to me, or I to them. We were brothers and sisters, but what of that? Why should they be attached to me, or I to them? Brothers and sisters were by blood; but slavery had made us strangers. I heard the words brother and sisters, and knew they must mean something; but slavery had robbed these terms of their true meaning. Frederick Douglass

America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. Frederick Douglass

The white man’s happiness cannot be purchased by the black man’s misery. Frederick Douglass

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. Frederick Douglass

In thinking of America, I sometimes find myself admiring her bright blue sky — her grand old woods — her fertile fields — her beautiful rivers — her mighty lakes, and star-crowned mountains. But my rapture is soon checked, my joy is soon turned to mourning. When I remember that all is cursed with the infernal actions of slaveholding, robbery and wrong, — when I remember that with the waters of her noblest rivers, the tears of my brethren are borne to the ocean, disregarded and forgotten, and that her most fertile fields drink daily of the warm blood of my outraged sisters, I am filled with unutterable loathing. Frederick Douglass, Frederick Douglass: Selected Speeches and Writings

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. Frederick Douglass

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

The silver trump of freedom roused in my soul eternal wakefulness. Frederick Douglass

I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs. Frederick Douglass

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. Frederick Douglass

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. Frederick Douglass

You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man. Frederick Douglass

What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July? Frederick Douglass

I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy-a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. Frederick Douglass

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. Frederick Douglass

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. Frederick Douglass

Knowledge makes a man unfit to be a slave. Frederick Douglass

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. Frederick Douglass

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

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. Frederick Douglass

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

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

I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong. Frederick Douglass

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

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. Frederick Douglass

Slaves are generally expected to sing as well as to work. Frederick Douglass

Slaves, when inquired of as to their condition and the character of their masters, almost universally say they are contented, and that their masters are kind. The slaveholders have been known to send in spies among their slaves, to ascertain their views and feelings in regard to their condition. The frequency of this has had the effect to establish among the slaves the maxim, that a still tongue makes a wise head. They suppress the truth rather than take the consequences of telling it. Frederick Douglass

I have observed this in my experience of slavery,–that whenever my condition was improved, instead of its increasing my contentment, it only increased my desire to be free, and set me to thinking of plans to gain my freedom. I have found that, to make a contented slave, it is necessary to make a thoughtless one. It is necessary to darken his moral and mental vision, and, as far as possible, to annihilate the power of reason. He must be able to detect no inconsistencies in slavery; he must be made to feel that slavery is right; and he can be brought to that only when he ceased to be a man. Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

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

If the lineal descendants of Ham are alone to be scripturally enslaved, it is certain that slavery at the south must soon become unscriptural; for thousands are ushered into the world, annually, who, like myself, owe their existence to white fathers, and those fathers most frequently their own masters. Frederick Douglass

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. Frederick Douglass

What I ask for the Negro is not benevolence, not pity, not sympathy, but simply justice. Frederick Douglass

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. Frederick Douglass

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. Frederick Douglass

I should esteem it a privilege to set you an example as to how mankind ought to treat each other. I am your fellow-man, but not your slave. Frederick Douglass

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

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. Frederick Douglass

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

The more I read, the more I was led to abhor and detest my enslavers. I could regard them in no other light than a band of successful robbers, who had left their homes, and gone to Africa, and stolen us from our homes, and in a strange land reduced us to slavery. I loathed them as being the meanest as well as the most wicked of men. As I read and contemplated the subject, behold! that very discontentment which Master Hugh had predicted would follow my learning to read had already come, to torment and sting my soul to unutterable anguish. As I writhed under it, I would at times feel that learning to read had been a curse rather than a blessing. It had given me a view of my wretched condition, without the remedy. it opened my eyes to the horrible pit, but to no ladder upon which to get out. in moments of agony, I envied my fellow-slaves for their stupidity. I have often wished myself a beast. I preferred the condition of the meanest reptile to my own. Any thing, no matter what, to get rid of thinking! It was this everlasting thinking of my condition that tormented me. There was no getting rid of it. It was pressed upon me by every object within sight or hearing, animate or inanimate. 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. It was ever 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. Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Experience demonstrates that there may be a wages of slavery only a little less galling and crushing in its effects than chattel slavery, and that this slavery of wages must go down with the other. Frederick Douglass

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. Frederick Douglass

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. Frederick Douglass

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