All Time Famous Frederick Douglass Quotes

Frederick Douglass Quotes

Frederick Douglass (born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, c. February 1817 or February 1818[a] – February 20, 1895) was an American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman. He became the most important leader of the movement for African-American civil rights in the 19th century.

scaping slavery, Frederick Douglass became a powerful voice for abolitionism, renowned for his speeches and writings. His autobiographies detailed his experiences and fueled the anti-slavery movement. Beyond abolition, he advocated for women’s suffrage and held public office. Though nominated for Vice President without his consent, he believed in dialogue and unity across divides, prioritizing progress over purity in the fight for equality.

Frederick Douglass Quotes

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

2. “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.”
— Frederick Douglass

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

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.”
— Frederick Douglass

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

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.”
— Frederick Douglass

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.”
— Frederick Douglass

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

17. “I had as well be killed running as die standing.”
— Frederick Douglass

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.”
— Frederick Douglass

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

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.”
— Frederick Douglass

21. “The opposite of compromise is character.”
— Frederick Douglass

22. “What to the Slave is the 4th of July.”
— Frederick Douglass

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

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.”
— Frederick Douglass

25. “One and God make a majority.”
— Frederick Douglass

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

27. “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”
— Frederick Douglass

28. “Our destiny is largely in our hands.”
— Frederick Douglass

29. “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.”
— Frederick Douglass

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

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

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

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

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

35. “What is possible for me is possible for you.”
— Frederick Douglass

36. “I know of no rights of race superior to the rights of humanity.”
— Frederick Douglass

37. “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

38. “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.”
— Frederick Douglass

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

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

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

42. “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.”
— Frederick Douglass

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

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

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.”
— Frederick Douglass

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.”
— Frederick Douglass

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.”
— Frederick Douglass

49. “Liberty for all; chains for none.”
— Frederick Douglass

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.”
— Frederick Douglass

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.”
— Frederick Douglass

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.”
— Frederick Douglass

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.”
— Frederick Douglass

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.”
— Frederick Douglass

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.”
— Frederick Douglass

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.”
— Frederick Douglass

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

58. “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.”
— Frederick Douglass

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

60. “Truth is proper and beautiful in all times and in all places.”
— Frederick Douglass

61. “A man is worked on by what he works on.”
— 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.”
— Frederick Douglass

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

64. “Inaction is followed by stagnation. Stagnation is followed by pestilence and pestilence is followed by death.”
— Frederick Douglass

65. “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.”
— Frederick Douglass

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

67. “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.”
— Frederick Douglass

68. “Men are whipped oftenest who are whipped easiest.”
— Frederick Douglass

69. “It is better to be part of a great whole than to be the whole of a small part.”
— Frederick Douglass

70. “Oppression makes a wise man mad.”
— Frederick Douglass

71. “I glory in conflict that I may hereafter exult in victory.”
— Frederick Douglass

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

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

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

75. “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.”
— Frederick Douglass

76. “Men and women, old and young, married and single, were ranked with horses, sheep, and swine.”
— Frederick Douglass

77. “In all the relations of life and death, we are met by the color line.”
— Frederick Douglass

78. “A little learning, indeed, maybe a dangerous thing, but the want of learning is a calamity to any people.”
— Frederick Douglass

79. “Opportunity is important but exertion is indispensable.”
— Frederick Douglass

80. “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

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

82. “It was unlawful, as well as unsafe, to teach a slave to read.”
— Frederick Douglass

83. “Intelligence is a great leveler here as elsewhere.”
— Frederick Douglass

84. “Educate your sons and daughters, send them to school, and show them that besides the cartridge box, the ballot box, and the jury box, you also have the knowledge box.”
— Frederick Douglass

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

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

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

88. “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 everything.”
— Frederick Douglass

89. “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.”
— Frederick Douglass

90. “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.”
— Frederick Douglass

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

92. “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.”
— Frederick Douglass

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

94. “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.”
— Frederick Douglass

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

96. “Praying for freedom never did me any good til I started praying with my feet.”
— Frederick Douglass

97. “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.”
— Frederick Douglass

98. “Interpreted as it ought to be interpreted, the Constitution is a Glorious Liberty Document!”
— Frederick Douglass

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

100. “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.”
— Frederick Douglass

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