Frederick Douglass Quotes

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.


Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all of the monarchies and despotisms of the old world, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.


John Brown’s zeal in the cause of freedom was infinitely superior to mine. Mine was as the taper light; his was as the burning sun. I could live for the slave; John Brown could die for him. The American people and the Government at Washington may refuse to recognize it for a time but the inexorable logic of events will force it upon them in the end; that the war now being waged in this land is a war for and against slavery.


The destiny of the colored American … is the destiny of America.


No, I make no pretension to patriotism. So long as my voice can be heard on this or the other side of the Atlantic, I will hold up America to the lightning scorn of moral indignation. In doing this, I shall feel myself discharging the duty of a true patriot; for he is a lover of his country who rebukes and does not excuse its sins.


If we would reach a degree of civilization higher and grander than any yet attained, we should welcome to our ample continent all nations, kindreds [sic] tongues and peoples; and as fast as they learn our language and comprehend the duties of citizenship, we should incorporate them into the American body politic. The outspread wings of the American eagle are broad enough to shelter all who are likely to come.


If so, let us petition for Woman’s Right to Suffrage.” [1853]


“On putting a priority, after the Civil War, on votes for African Americans males before women in general] When women, because they are women, are dragged from their homes and hung upon lampposts; when their children are torn from their arms and their brains dashed upon the pavement;… then they will have the urgency to obtain the ballot.”


“Should the females of New York be placed on a level of equality with males before the law? If so, let us petition for this impartial justice for women. In order to insure this equal justice should the females of New York, like the males, have a voice in appointing the law makers and the law administrators?


“When the true history of the antislavery cause shall be written, women will occupy a large space in its pages, for the cause of the slave has been peculiarly woman’s cause.” [Life and Times of Frederick Douglass,1881]


“Observing woman’s agency, devotion and efficiency in pleading the cause of the slave, gratitude for this high service early moved me to give favorable attention to the subject of what is called “woman’s rights” and caused me to be denominated a woman’s rights man. I am glad to say I have never been ashamed to be thus designated.” [Life and Times of Frederick Douglass,1881]


“When I ran away from slavery, it was for myself; when I advocated emancipation, it was for my people; but when I stood up for the rights of women, self was out of the question, and I found a little nobility in the act.”


“When the true history of the antislavery cause shall be written, women will occupy a large space in its pages, for the cause of the slave has been peculiarly woman’s cause.”


“We hold woman to be justly entitled to all we claim for man. We go farther, and express our conviction that all political rights which it is expedient for man to exercise, it is equally so for women.” [at the 1848 Women’s Rights Convention at Seneca Falls, according to Stanton et al in [History of Woman Suffrage]


“A discussion of the rights of animals would be regarded with far more complacency by many of what are called the wise and the good of our land, than would be a discussion of the rights of woman.” [from an 1848 article in the North Star about the Seneca Falls Women’s Rights Convention and its reception by the general public]