Looking for some inspirational quotes from the prominent activist Frederick Douglass? We have rounded up the best collection of Frederick Douglass quotes, sayings, and writings, (with images and pictures) on life, slavery, education, and freedom that will inspire you to stand for what is right.
Frederick Douglass was an African American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and newspaper publisher who through his work educated people about the horrors of slavery and took forward the anti-slavery movement.
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Douglass was born enslaved as Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey around 1818, he learned to read and write all by himself before escaping from slavery in Maryland, in 1938.
He started participating in meetings of the abolitionist movement and became famous for his oratory and sharp antislavery writings and became a national leader of the movement in Massachusetts and New York.
He wrote his first autobiography in 1845, describing his experiences as a slave in his Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, which became a bestseller and was influential in promoting the cause of abolition.
Douglass penned two more autobiographies, My Bondage and My Freedom (1855) and the last one being Life and Times of Frederick Douglass.
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He became the first Black to hold a high U.S. government rank and was the most photographed American man of the 19th century.
The journey of Frederick Douglass from a captive slave to an internationally renowned activist is a source of inspiration and hope for millions.
His wise words of wisdom and courageous actions continue to shape the ways that we think about democracy, race, equality, and liberty.
Top 10 Frederick Douglass Quotes
- “Experience is a keen teacher;” – Frederick Douglass
- “Our destiny is largely in our hands.” – Frederick Douglass
- “You have to take power. No one gives it.” – Frederick Douglass
- “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” – Frederick Douglass
- “I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.” – Frederick Douglass
- “The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” – Frederick Douglass
- “You are not judged by the height you have risen, but from the depth you have climbed.” – Frederick Douglass
- “We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and the future.” – Frederick Douglass
- “For no man who lives at all lives unto himself. He either helps or hinders all who are in anywise connected to him.” – 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
Famous Frederick Douglass Quotes
Douglass rose to become a prominent activist, public speaker, and author, even after being born into slavery and receiving nominal education.
He believed in dialogue, equality of all mankind, and in all people uniting across racial and ideological divides.
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When radical abolitionists criticized him for his willingness to engage in dialogue with slave owners, he replied: “I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong”.
These powerful and enlightening Frederick Douglass quotes and Frederick Douglass sayings will inspire you to stand for what you believe in.
- “Without a struggle, there can be no progress.” – Frederick Douglass
- “The soul that is within me no man can degrade.” – Frederick Douglass
- “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” – Frederick Douglass
- “The thing worse than rebellion is the thing that causes rebellion.” – Frederick Douglass
- “From apparently the basest metals we have the finest toned bells.” – Frederick Douglass
- “The white man’s happiness cannot be purchased by the black man’s misery.” – Frederick Douglass
- “People might not get all they work for in this world, but they must certainly work for all they get.” – Frederick Douglass
- “A man’s character always takes its hue, more or less, from the form and color of things about him.” – Frederick Douglass
- “Let us render the tyrant no aid; let us not hold the light by which he can trace the footprints of our flying brother.” – Frederick Douglass
- “A great man, tender of heart, strong of nerve, boundless patience and broadest sympathy, with no motive apart from his country.” – 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
- “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
- “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
- “Welcome, welcome joy, welcome sorrow, welcome pleasure, welcome pain. You are all the ingredients of life — and with you all, life is an inestimable blessing.” – Frederick Douglass
- “The mere recurrence to those songs, even now, afflicts me; and while I am writing these lines, an expression of feeling has already found its way down my cheek.” – Frederick Douglass
- “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
- “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.” – Frederick Douglass
- “It is no disparagement to truth, that it can only prevail where reason prevails. War begins where reason ends. The thing worse than rebellion is the thing that causes rebellion.” – Frederick Douglass
- “Reason is imprisoned here, and passions run wild. Like the fires of the prairie, once lighted, they are at the mercy of every wind, and must burn, till they have consumed all that is combustible within their remorseless grasp.” – Frederick Douglass
- “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
Frederick Douglass Quotes About Freedom & Slavery
Douglass believed that his own path to freedom started with literacy, and he believed that the spread of literacy and the exercise of freedom of speech and assembly was necessary for the success of abolitionism.
He believed that the right to liberty was a natural right that every human deserved, which he said has been clearly articulated in the Declaration of Independence.
He believed that those who wrote the U.S. Constitution had a clear intent to put slavery on a course of ultimate extinction.
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Douglass on freedom and slavery in a speech in Boston (1860) said, “Liberty is meaningless where the right to utter one’s thought and opinions has ceased to exist. That, of all rights, is the dread of tyrants,”
These famous Frederick Douglass Quotes about slavery will give you an insight into his perspective on liberty, human rights, and freedom.
- “What to the Slave is the 4th of July.” – Frederick Douglass
- “Knowledge makes a man unfit to be a slave.” – Frederick Douglass
- “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” – Frederick Douglass
- “Freedom is a road seldom traveled by the multitude.” – Frederick Douglass
- “Slaves are generally expected to sing as well as to work.” – Frederick Douglass
- “I know of no rights of race superior to the rights of humanity…” – Frederick Douglass
- “I will unite with anyone to do good, but with no one to do harm.” – Frederick Douglass
- “The destiny of the colored American … is the destiny of America.” – Frederick Douglass
- “I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong.” – Frederick Douglass
- “Every one of us should be ashamed to be free while his brother is a slave.” – Frederick Douglass
- “I didn’t know I was a slave until I found out I couldn’t do the things I wanted.” – Frederick Douglass
- “A man who will enslave his own blood, may not be safely relied on for magnamity.” – Frederick Douglass
- “The life of the nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful, and virtuous.” – Frederick Douglass
- “I have found that, to make a contented slave, it is necessary to make a thoughtless one.” – Frederick Douglass
- “What I ask for the Negro is not benevolence, not pity, not sympathy, but simply justice.” – Frederick Douglass
- “I prayed for freedom for twenty years, but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.” – Frederick Douglass
- “There is not a man beneath the canopy of Heaven who does not know that slavery is wrong for him.” – 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
- “He treated me as a man… He did not let me feel for a moment that there was any difference in the color of our skins.” – Frederick Douglass
- “Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground.” – Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass Quotes On Education & Progress
Douglass believed that people could rise with equal opportunity, education, and hard work. He highlighted the importance of education as a part of realizing human potential and achieving freedom.
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In a speech delivered at the 1894 dedication of the Manassas Industrial School for Colored Youth, Douglass argued that learning and liberty went hand in hand. He said education means emancipation.
He further went and said “It means light and liberty. It means the uplifting of the soul of man into the glorious light of truth, the light only by which men can be free. To deny education to any people is one of the greatest crimes against human nature.”
- “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” – Frederick Douglass
- “Your faculties remained yours, and mine became useful to their rightful owner.” – Frederick Douglass
- “Some know the value of education by having it. I know its value by not having it.” – Frederick Douglass
- “A man’s rights rest in three boxes: the ballot box, the jury box, and the cartridge box.” – Frederick Douglass
- “As a people, Americans are remarkably familiar with all facts which make in their own favor.” – Frederick Douglass
- “A man, at times, gets something for nothing, but it will, in his hands, amount to nothing.” – Frederick Douglass
- “We may explain success mainly by one word and that word is WORK! WORK!! WORK!!! WORK!!!!” – 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
- “No man whose vision is bounded by colour can come into contact with what is highest and best in the world.” – 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
- “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
- “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
- “Alas! I had not then learned the measure of “man’s inhumanity to man,” nor to what limitless extent of wickedness he will go for the love of gain.” – Frederick Douglass
- “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
- “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
Best Quotes By Frederick Douglass
- “Stars shall fall from heaven.” – Frederick Douglass
- “One and God make a majority.” – Frederick Douglass
- “My hopes were never brighter than now.” – Frederick Douglass
- “A man is worked on by what he works on.” – Frederick Douglass
- “He was whipped oftener who was whipped easiest.” – Frederick Douglass
- “For my part, I should prefer death to hopeless bondage.” – Frederick Douglass
- “I had a wholesome dread of the consequences of running in debt.” – Frederick Douglass
- “The silver trump of freedom roused in my soul eternal wakefulness.” – Frederick Douglass
- “A gentleman will not insult me, and no man not a gentleman can insult me.” – Frederick Douglass
- “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
- “A little learning, indeed, may be a dangerous thing, but the want of learning is a calamity to any people.” –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
- “Without any appeal to books, to laws, or to authorities of any kind, it was enough to accept God as a father, to regard slavery as a crime. I” – 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
- “Truth shines with brighter light and intenser heat at every moment, and a country torn and rent and bleeding implores relief from its distress and agony.” – Frederick Douglass
More About Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass (February 1817 or 1818– February 20, 1895) was born into slavery on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay in Talbot County, Maryland.
Douglass’s ideological objection to slavery began after he learned to read and write. When he was around the age of 12, his slaveholder Sophia Auld decided to teach him the alphabet despite education was banned for slaves.
Even after the Civil War was over, Douglass remained active in advocating the idea that slaves had the intellectual capacity to function as independent American citizens but they were not able to because they were denied access to education.
Later she stopped teaching because her husband forced her to. But Douglass didn’t stop there, he continued to learn wherever he got the opportunity to.
He continued to secretly teach himself how to read and write. He began to read newspapers, political materials, pamphlets, and books of all kinds, this led him to question the institution of slavery.
Later in life, he was often heard saying, “knowledge is the pathway from slavery to freedom.”. He also credited The Columbian Orator, for clarifying and defining his thoughts on human rights and freedom.
These Frederick Douglass quotes will inspire you to achieve the unachievable and will enhance your leadership qualities in you.
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