112 Frederick Douglass Quotes About Freedom and Progress

Our latest collection of Frederick Douglass quotes will inspire you to stand for what you believe in.

Frederick Douglass was an American social reformer, abolitionist, writer, and orator whose work helped educate people about the horrors of slavery and helped move the abolitionist movement forward.

Born into slavery around 1818, Douglass taught himself to read and write before escaping slavery in 1838.

You might also enjoy learning more from these Slavery Quotes.

In the early 1840s, he began attending meetings of the abolitionist movement and later became a national leader of the movement in Massachusetts and New York.

Although he did not receive any formal education, Douglass penned several biographies and dozens of speeches, thus proving that black people were just as intelligent and talented. 

In his 1845 bestselling autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, which was influential in promoting the cause of abolition, he outlines his experiences as a slave.

Even after the civil war, Douglass advocated for equality, liberty, and human rights.

He died in 1895 after suffering a heart.

Long after his death, Douglass continues to inspire those who fight for equality and a more just society.

In that respect, here are some inspirational, powerful, and enlightening Frederick Douglass quotes and Frederick Douglass sayings to inspire you to always stand for what is right.

Also, you may enjoy the following:

If you like this article, we suggest you explore our most popular quotes article, a list of short inspirational quotes for daily encouragement. 

Look through our complete collection of inspirational quotes here.

Frederick Douglass quotes about freedom and progress

1. “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” – Frederick Douglass

2. “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” – Frederick Douglass

frederick douglass quotes on progress

You will also enjoy our article on freedom of speech quotes.

3. “To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker.” -Frederick Douglass

4. “Some know the value of education by having it. I know its value by not having it.” – Frederick Douglass

5. “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

6. “Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground.”- Frederick Douglass

7. “The soul that is within me no man can degrade.” – Frederick Douglass

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

9. “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” ― Frederick Douglass

10. “The white man’s happiness cannot be purchased by the black man’s misery.” – Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass quotes about slavery

11. “I didn’t know I was a slave until I found out I couldn’t do the things I wanted.” – Frederick Douglass

12. “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

13. “Knowledge makes a man unfit to be a slave.” – Frederick Douglass

frederick douglass quotes about knowledge

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

15. “What to the Slave is the 4th of July.” – Frederick Douglass

16. “There is not a man beneath the canopy of Heaven who does not know that slavery is wrong for him.” – Frederick Douglass

17. “Slaves are generally expected to sing as well as to work.” – Frederick Douglass

18. “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

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

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20. “What I ask for the Negro is not benevolence, not pity, not sympathy, but simply justice.” – Frederick Douglass

Powerful Frederick Douglass quotes that’ll open your eyes

21. “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

22. “The thing worse than rebellion is the thing that causes rebellion.” – Frederick Douglass

frederick douglass quotes about life

23. “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

24. “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

25. “The life of the nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful, and virtuous.” – Frederick Douglass

26. “The destiny of the colored American … is the destiny of America.” ― Frederick Douglass

27. “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

28. “Freedom is a road seldom traveled by the multitude.” ― Frederick Douglass

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

30. “Our destiny is largely in our hands.” ― Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass quotes that teach and inspire

31. “The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” – Frederick Douglass

32. “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

33. “I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong.” ― Frederick Douglass

If you’re enjoying these quotes, make sure to read our collection of unity quotes about bringing people together.

frederick douglass quotes on doing right

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

35. “People might not get all they work for in this world, but they must certainly work for all they get.” – Frederick Douglass

36. “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”  – Frederick Douglass

37. “Man’s greatness consists in his ability to do and the proper application of his powers to things needed to be done.”  – 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. “A man is worked on by what he works on.” ― Frederick Douglass

40. “I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ; I therefore hate the corrupt, slave-holding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land.” ― Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass quotes to elevate your perspective

41. “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

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

43. “A gentleman will not insult me, and no man not a gentleman can insult me.” ― Frederick Douglass

44. “My hopes were never brighter than now.” ― Frederick Douglass

frederick douglass quotes on life

45. “The relation between the white and colored people of this country is the great, paramount, imperative, and all-commanding question for this age and nation to solve.” ― Frederick Douglass

46. “I will give Mr. Freeland the credit of being the best master I ever had, till I became my own master.” ― Frederick Douglass

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47. “Experience is a keen teacher;” ― Frederick Douglass

48. “To enslave men, successfully and safely, it is necessary to have their minds occupied with thoughts and aspirations short of the liberty of which they are deprived. A certain degree of attainable good must be kept before them.” ― Frederick Douglass

49. “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

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

Frederick Douglass quotes that will make you think differently

51. “Men talk of the Negro problem. There is no Negro problem. The problem is whether the American people have honesty enough, loyalty enough, honor enough, patriotism enough to live up to their Constitution”― Frederick Douglass

52. “For my part, I should prefer death to hopeless bondage.”― Frederick Douglass

53. “One and God make a majority.”― Frederick Douglass

54. “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

55. “I had a wholesome dread of the consequences of running in debt.”― Frederick Douglass

56. “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

57. “Power concedes nothing without demand. It never has and never will. Show me the exact amount of wrong and injustices that are visited upon a person and I will show you the exact amount of words endured by these people.”― Frederick Douglass

58. “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

59. “From apparently the basest metals we have the finest toned bells.”― Frederick Douglass

60. “You are not judged by the height you have risen, but from the depth you have climbed.”― Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass quotes to inspire you

61. “A man’s rights rest in three boxes: the ballot box, the jury box, and the cartridge box.” – Frederick Douglass

62. “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

63. “I will unite with anyone to do good, but with no one to do harm.” – Frederick Douglass

64. “Every one of us should be ashamed to be free while his brother is a slave.” – Frederick Douglass

65. “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

66. “We may explain success mainly by one word and that word is WORK! WORK!! WORK!!! WORK!!!!” – Frederick Douglass

67. “I know of no rights of race superior to the rights of humanity…” – Frederick Douglass

68. “You have to take power. No one gives it.” – Frederick Douglass

69. “A man, at times, gets something for nothing, but it will, in his hands, amount to nothing.” – Frederick Douglass

90. “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

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91. “The silver trump of freedom roused in my soul eternal wakefulness.” – Frederick Douglass

92. “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

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More Frederick Douglass quotes and sayings

93. “As a people, Americans are remarkably familiar with all facts which make in their own favor.”― Frederick Douglass

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

95. “Stars shall fall from heaven.”― Frederick Douglass

96. “I have found that, to make a contented slave, it is necessary to make a thoughtless one.”― Frederick Douglass

97. “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

98. “Your faculties remained yours, and mine became useful to their rightful owner.”― Frederick Douglass

99. “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

100. “He was whipped oftener who was whipped easiest.”― Frederick Douglass

101. “Is it possible for the human mind to conceive of a more horrible state of society?”― Frederick Douglass

102. “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

Powerful Frederick Douglass quotes to live by

103. “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

104. “Another advantage I gained in my new master was, he made no pretensions to, or profession of, religion; and this, in my opinion, was truly a great advantage.” ― Frederick Douglass

105. “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

106. “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

107. “We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake…the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes…denounced.” ― Frederick Douglass

108. “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

109. “The reading of these speeches added much to my limited stock of language, and enabled me to give tongue to many interesting thoughts, which had frequently flashed through my soul, and died away for want of utterance.” ― Frederick Douglass

110. “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

111. “My natural elasticity was crushed, my intellect languished, the disposition to read departed, the cheerful spark that lingered about my eye died; the dark night of slavery closed in upon me; and behold a man transformed into a brute!” ― Frederick Douglass

112. “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

Which of these Frederick Douglass quotes was your favorite?

Despite being born into slavery and receiving minimal formal education, Douglass rose to become a prominent activist, author, and public speaker.

He proved that slaves had the intellectual capacity to function as independent American citizens.

Besides being a believer in the equality of all mankind, Douglass also believed in dialogue and in all people uniting irrespective of their race and ideologies.

Hopefully, these Frederick Douglass quotes have inspired you to always fight for what is right.

Did you enjoy these quotes?

Which of these Frederick Douglass quotes was your favorite?

We would love to hear all about it in the comment section below.

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  1. Bob

    February 1, 2022 at 1:40 PM

    Frederick Douglass was a brilliant man. His observations and conclusions, while often shaped by experiences with slavery and racism, are timeless in their noteworthiness as they apply to the constant struggle between good (freedom, knowledge…) and evil (tyranny, ignorance…).

    Some people use February to assuage guilt. Such a shame. Always remember and share knowledge about great people and what they’ve done for us — not just in some month attributed to some characteristic (race, e.g.) that they share with others.

  2. Tracy

    August 6, 2020 at 7:22 PM

    Mr Douglass held the keys to success and the path to peace between us all. Mutual respect requires self respect And humility. Lord, lift up men and women who can express the truth Today as clearly.

  3. Susan Tordella

    July 12, 2020 at 10:07 AM

    I have 2- This one is often buried or had to find –
    Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.
    The thing worse than rebellion is the thing that causes rebellion.

  4. Daniel

    June 20, 2019 at 3:33 PM

    Mr. Douglass should grace our $20 bill. Worthy as is Ms. Tubman, Douglass has accomplished more to shape post-bellum America, heal its wounds, and serve as a guiding light for her people. He was a man in full. We need more men like Frederick Douglass.

  5. Christopher Wynn

    January 30, 2019 at 2:11 PM

    I just want to know why this quote was left out: I am a Republican, a black, dyed in the wool Republican, and I never intend to belong to any other party than the party of freedom and progress.

  6. William

    January 22, 2019 at 6:13 AM

    Great quotes from a man who self taught, in the face of adversity, no matter the consequences he faced, was a leader in the struggle for equality.

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