Quotations by Douglass, Frederick


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

Frederick Douglass (1817-1895) American abolitionist, orator, writer
“A Plea for Freedom of Speech in Boston,” speech (9 Dec 1860)
Added on 30-Apr-14 | Last updated 30-Apr-14
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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.

Frederick Douglass (1817-1895) American abolitionist, orator, writer
“A Plea for Freedom of Speech in Boston,” speech (9 Dec 1860)
Added on 12-May-14 | Last updated 12-May-14
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The thing worse than rebellion is the thing that causes rebellion.

Frederick Douglass (1817-1895) American abolitionist, orator, writer
“Reconstruction,” Atlantic (Dec 1866)
Added on 9-Jul-13 | Last updated 9-Jul-13
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The 4th of July is the first great fact in your nation’s history — the very ring-bolt in the chain of your yet undeveloped destiny. Pride and patriotism, not less than gratitude, prompt you to celebrate and to hold it in perpetual remembrance. 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.

Frederick Douglass (1817-1895) American abolitionist, orator, writer
“What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” speech, Rochester, New York (5 July 1852)
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Added on 15-Oct-14 | Last updated 15-Oct-14
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I prayed for freedom for twenty years, but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.

Douglass - prayed with my legs - wist_info quote

Frederick Douglass (1817-1895) American abolitionist, orator, writer
(Attributed)

Mentioned frequently as being part of his earlier speeches, but unsourced. Also found as "failed to see the slightest scintillation of an answer until I prayed with my legs."
Added on 7-Mar-16 | Last updated 7-Mar-16
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You are not judged by the height you have risen, but from the depth you have climbed.

Frederick Douglass (1817-1895) American abolitionist, orator, writer
Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1881)
Added on 23-Feb-12 | Last updated 23-Feb-12
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Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will.

Frederick Douglass (1817-1895) American abolitionist, orator, writer
Letter to Gerrit Smith (30 Mar 1849)
Added on 25-Jun-12 | Last updated 21-Jun-12
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The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims, have been born of earnest struggle. The conflict has been exciting, agitating, all-absorbing, and for the time being, putting all other tumults to silence. It must do this or it does nothing. 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 (1817-1895) American abolitionist, orator, writer
Speech on West India Emancipation (4 Aug 1857)

Also cited (in part) as a letter to a colleague in 1849. More background here.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 25-Aug-15
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Find out just what any people will quietly submit to, and you have found out the exact amount 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.

Frederick Douglass (1817-1895) American abolitionist, orator, writer
Speech on West India Emancipation (4 Aug 1857)
Added on 10-Sep-15 | Last updated 10-Sep-15
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Men might not get all they work for in this world, but they must certainly work for all they get. If we ever get free from 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 (1817-1895) American abolitionist, orator, writer
Speech on West India Emancipation (4 Aug 1857)
Added on 13-Oct-15 | Last updated 13-Oct-15
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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 (1817-1895) American abolitionist, orator, writer
Speech, Civil Rights Mass Meeting, Washington, D.C. (1883)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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I expose slavery in this country, because to expose it is to kill it. Slavery is one of the monsters of darkness to whom the light of truth is death.

Frederick Douglass (1817-1895) American abolitionist, orator, writer
Speech, Moorfields, England (22 May 1846)
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Added on 18-Aug-15 | Last updated 18-Aug-15
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For he is a lover of his country who rebukes and does not excuse its sins.

Frederick Douglass (1817-1895) American abolitionist, orator, writer
Speech, Syracue, New York (24 Sep 1847)

Full text.
Added on 19-Oct-11 | Last updated 19-Oct-11
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