Frederick Douglass was an abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman from the United States.

He became a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York after fleeing slavery in Maryland. He was known for his oratory and sharp antislavery writings.

We have curated a list of the some of the best quotes from Frederick Douglass for you.


Most Famous Frederick Douglass Quotes on Progress, Change & Freedom

1. “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

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2. “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

3. “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).

4. “I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

5. “You are not judged by the height you have risen, but from the depth you have climbed.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

6. “Without a struggle, there can be no progress.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

7. “Knowledge makes a man unfit to be a slave.” ~ (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. “To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

10. “A gentleman will not insult me, and no man not a gentleman can insult me.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

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11. “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

12. “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).

13. “I prayed for freedom for twenty years, but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

14. “The white man’s happiness cannot be purchased by the black man’s misery.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

15. “I didn’t know I was a slave until I found out I couldn’t do the things I wanted.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

16. “I had as well be killed running as die standing.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

17. “The soul that is within me no man can degrade.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

18. “The opposite of compromise is character.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

19. “People might not get all they work for in this world, but they must certainly work for all they get.” ~ (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. “What to the Slave is the 4th of July.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

22. “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).

23. “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).

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24. “Our destiny is largely in our hands.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

25. “The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppose.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

Popular Frederick Douglass Quotes

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

27. “A man’s rights rest in three boxes: the ballot box, the jury box, and the cartridge box.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

28. “One and God make a majority.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

29. “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).

30. “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).

31. “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).

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

33. “We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and the future.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

34. “Some know the value of education by having it. I know it’s value by not having it.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

35. “This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

36. “You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

37. “What is possible for me is possible for you.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

38. “Right is of no Sex-Truth is of no Color-God is the Father of us all, and we are all Brethren.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

39. “I know of no rights of race superior to the rights of humanity.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

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40. “Freedom is a road seldom traveled by the multitude.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

41. “The life of the nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful, and virtuous.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

42. “When men sow the wind it is rational to expect that they will reap the whirlwind.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

43. “Liberty for all; chains for none.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

44. “In life you don’t get everything you pay for, but you must pay for everything you get.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

45. “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).

46. “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).

Top Frederick Douglass Quotes

47. “The thing worse than rebellion is the thing that causes rebellion.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

48. “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).

49. “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).

50. “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).

51. “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).

52. “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).

53. “Who would be free themselves must strike the blow. Better even to die free than to live slaves.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

54. “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).

55. “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).

56. “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).

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

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58. “A man is worked on by what he works on.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

59. “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).

60. “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).

Short Frederick Douglass Quotes

61. “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

62. “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).

63. “Oppression makes a wise man mad.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

64. “It is better to be part of a great whole than to be the whole of a small part.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

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

66. “At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

67. “Civil war was not a mere strife for territory and dominion, but a contest of civilization against barbarism.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

68. “Opportunity is important but exertion is indispensable.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

69. “It was unlawful, as well as unsafe, to teach a slave to read.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

70. “Men are whipped oftenest who are whipped easiest.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

71. “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).

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

73. “A little learning, indeed, may be a dangerous thing, but the want of learning is a calamity to any people.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

74. “Men and women, old and young, married and single, were ranked with horses, sheep, and swine.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

75. “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.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

76. “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).

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

78. “Intelligence is a great leveler here as elsewhere.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

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

80. “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).

Best Frederick Douglass Quotes

81. “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).

82. “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).

83. “He who would be free must strike the first blow.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

84. “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).

85. “I glory in conflict that I may hereafter exult in victory.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

86. “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).

87. “In all the relations of life and death, we are met by the color line.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

88. “A man who will enslave his own blood, may not be safely relied on for magnamity.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

89. “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.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

90. “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).

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

93. “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).

94. “Truth is proper and beautiful in all times and in all places.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

95. “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).

96. “I have observed this in my experience of slavery, that whenever my condition was improved, instead of increasing my contentment; it only increased my desire to be free, and set me thinking of plans to gain my freedom.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

97. “American labor rights activist, on activities of the National Farm Workers Association Human law may know no distinction among men in respect of rights, but human practice may.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

98. “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).

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).

101. “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.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

102. “You have to take power. No one gives it.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

103. “Inaction is followed by stagnation. Stagnation is followed by pestilence and pestilence is followed by death.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

104. “The ballot is the only safety.” ~ (Frederick Douglass).

105. “Interpreted as it ought to be interpreted, the constitution is a Glorious Liberty Document!” ~ (Frederick Douglass).


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