Frederick Douglass Quotes About  Slavery and Freedom

Frederick Douglass was an American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman. He was born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey in February 1817 or 1818 and died on February 20, 1895. He became a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York after escaping slavery in Maryland.

He was well-known for his oratory and cutting antislavery writings. He was therefore referred to by abolitionists of his time as a living refutation of the claims made by slaveholders that slaves lacked the intelligence to be independent American citizens. The idea that such a great orator had once been a slave was difficult for Northerners to accept at the time. Douglass wrote his first autobiography in an effort to address this disbelief.

60 Frederick Douglass Quotes

  1. “Our destiny is largely in our hands.”
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2. “To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker.”

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3. “Knowledge makes a man unfit to be a slave.”

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4. “I didn’t know I was a slave until I found out I couldn’t do the things I wanted.”

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5. “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

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6. “Slaves are generally expected to sing as well as to work.”

7. “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.”

8. “Power concedes nothing without a demand.”

9. “My hopes were never brighter than now.”

10. “Slavery soon proved its ability to divest her of these excellent qualities, and her home of its early happiness. Conscience cannot stand much violence.”

frederick douglass quotes about freedom

Frederick Douglass Famous Quotes

10. “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”

11. “Without a struggle, there can be no progress.”

12. “A man who will enslave his own blood, may not be safely relied on for magnamity.”

13. “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”

14. “The life of a nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful, and virtuous.”

15. “A man’s troubles are always half disposed of when he finds endurance the only alternative.”

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16. “Everybody in the South seemed to want the privilege of whipping somebody else.”

17. “I prayed for freedom for twenty years, but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.”

18. “I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong.”

19. “You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man.”

20. “Freedom is a road seldom traveled by the multitude.”

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Frederick Douglass Quotes about Life and Freedom

21. “For my part, I should prefer death to hopeless bondage.”

22. “Right is of no sex, Truth is of no color, God is the Father of us all, and we are all Brethren”

23. “Some know the value of education by having it. I know it’s value by not having it.”

24. “You are not judged by the height you have risen, but from the depth you have climbed.”

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

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26. “No man whose vision is bounded by colour can come into contact with what is highest and best in the world.”

27. “The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”

28. “It remains now to be seen whether we have the needed courage to have that cause entirely removed from the Republic.”

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

30. “When men sow the wind it is rational to expect that they will reap the whirlwind.”

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Frederick Douglass Inspirational Quotes

31. “People might not get all they work for in this world, but they must certainly work for all they get.”

32. “I have found that, to make a contented slave, it is necessary to make a thoughtless one.”

33. “They suppress the truth rather than take the consequence of telling it, and in so doing prove themselves a part of the human family.”

34. “The soul that is within me no man can degrade.”

35. “Once you learn to read, you will forever be free.”

frederick douglass quotes about reading

36. “A gentleman will not insult me, and no man not a gentleman can insult me.”

37. “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.”

38. “Slavery is indeed gone, but its shadow still lingers over the country and poisons more or less the moral atmosphere of all sections of the republic.”

39. “Immense wealth, and its lavish expenditure, fill the great house with all that can please the eye, or tempt the taste. Here, appetite, not food, is the great desideratum.”

40. “My day has been a pleasant one. My joys have far exceeded my sorrows and my friends have brought me far more than my enemies have taken from me.”

a quote from frederick douglass

Frederick Douglass Quotes on Education & Progress

41. “The white man’s happiness cannot be purchased by the black man’s misery.”

42. “Genealogical trees do not flourish among slaves.”

43. “There is not a man beneath the canopy of heaven, that does not know that slavery is wrong for him.”

44. “To be accused was to be convicted, and to be convicted was to be punished; the one always following the other with immutable certainty.”

45. “Experience is a keen teacher.”

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46. “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

47. “Give me the making of a nation’s ballads and I care not who has the making of its Laws.”

48. “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.”

49. “Your faculties remained yours, and mine became useful to their rightful owner.”

50. “The silver trump of freedom had roused my soul to eternal wakefulness.”

frederick douglass quotes on freedom

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

52. “People might not get all they work for in this world, but they must certainly work for all they get.”

53. “Inaction is followed by stagnation. Stagnation is followed by pestilence and pestilence is followed by death.”

54. “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.”

55. “The man who is right is a majority. He who has God and conscience on his side, has a majority against the universe.”

frederick douglass inspirational quotes

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

57. “The songs of the slave represent the sorrows of his heart”

58. “For no man who lives at all lives unto himself. He either helps or hinders all who are in anywise connected to him.”

59. “I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and incur my own abhorrence”

60. “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.”

A Must Read: Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by David W. Blight

Written with great skill. This aspect of black history is eye-opening. A fascinating examination of a man who was inspired by his Christian faith to preach in a prophetic manner and take up the cause of abolition. I couldn’t help but wonder why I hadn’t encountered him earlier. A brilliantly written biography with a lot of intelligence.

Frederick Augustus’s Short Biography

Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey was born into slavery in Talbot County, Maryland, which is located on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay. His birthplace was probably his grandmother’s cabin east of Tappers Corner and west of Tuckahoe Creek, which was located between the plantation and Cordova. “I have no accurate knowledge of my age, never having seen any authentic record containing it,” Douglass wrote in his first autobiography.

He provided increasingly accurate birthdate estimates in later autobiographies, with his actual birthdate coming in at 1817. However, historian Dickson J. Preston discovered that Douglass was born in February 1818 using the records that remain from his previous owner, Aaron Anthony. Despite the fact that his exact birthdate is unknown, he decided to celebrate it on February 14 in honor of the fact that his mother used to refer to him as her “Little Valentine.”

Additional Read: Frederick Douglass

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