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Frederick Douglass
1818 - 1895

Born a slave, Douglass secretly learned to read and write. He escaped slavery in 1838, and went on to become an acclaimed orator, publisher of a newspaper, abolitionist and women's rights activist, and advisor to U.S. presidents Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses Grant.


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. Thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers, founded in injustice and wrong, are sure to tremble, if men are allowed to reason...

1860 - from a speech delivered in Boston
Men may not get all they pay for in this world, but they certainly pay for all they get.

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.

The limit of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.

No class of men can, without insulting their own nature, be content with any deprivation of their rights.

Apr. 1865 - from "What the Black Man Wants", a speech to the Anti-Slavery Society in Boston
Everybody has asked the question... 'What shall we do with the Negro?' I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us! If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are worm-eaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall! I am not for tying or fastening them on the tree in any way, except by nature's plan, and if they will not stay there, let them fall. And if the Negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone!

Apr. 1865 - from "What the Black Man Wants", a speech to the Anti-Slavery Society in Boston
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 or property will be safe.

Apr. 1886 - from a speech
Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are people 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 waters. This struggle may be a moral 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. Find out what people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice which will be imposed upon them. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.