50 Free Speech Quotes Celebrating Free Expression

Take a look at this insightful collection of free speech quotes!

Our quotes about free speech illustrate the importance of unfettered expression. 

What is free speech?

Freedom of speech is the right to express one’s feelings and perceptions without censorship. 

Check out our freedom of speech facts below: 

  • In the US, The First Amendment established freedom of speech.
  • The UN recognized free speech as a human right in 1948. 
  • Socrates was persecuted for promoting free speech. 

Do you feel heard? 

Everyone has a voice, but sometimes it is easy to feel our voices get drowned out. 

When people think about their perceived “freedom of speech,” many aspects of that right are misunderstood.

People tend to overlook the limits of the law. 

Contrary to some people’s belief, the 1st Amendment is not a permission slip to recklessly harass people or go around sharing false information. 

In today’s social climate, people are questioning the limit of censorship more than ever. 

For example, any words determined to promote incitement, defamation, fraud, obscenity, or deemed fighting remarks or threats remain unprotected under the 1st Amendment. 

Free speech, free expression

In this piece, you will find free speech quotes from those with complete impunity to say what they want to those underrepresented and too — often silenced. 

Hopefully, you will find inspiration or, at the very least, food for thought in this fantastic collection of free-speech quotes. 

Check out our free speech quotes below! 

Free speech quotes about the freedom of speech movement

The freedom of speech movement is an old struggle. 

1. “Censorship is to art as lynching is to justice.” — Henry Louis Gates

2. “Having a free press doesn’t mean anyone cares.” — Nell Zink

3. “Proclaim the truth and do not be silent through fear.” — St. Catherine of Sienna 

4. “The thing about freedom is that it defines its own borders.” — Laura Chouette

5. “You win a debate with a better argument, not by force.” — Frank Sonnenberg

6. “My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you.” Audre Lorde

7. “We need, in every community, a group of angelic troublemakers.” Bayard Rustin

8. “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” — Evelyn Beatrice Hall

9. “There is freedom of speech, but I cannot guarantee freedom after speech.” — Idi Amin

10. “Sometimes, people lose their right to remain silent when pressured to remain silent.” — Criss Jami

Inspirational Free Speech Quotes

Here we have a collection inspired by the systems required for free speech.  

11. “Reason and free inquiry are the only effectual agents against error.” Thomas Jefferson 

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12. “Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.” Ben Franklin

13. “I may not agree with you, but I will defend to the death your right to make an ass of yourself.” Oscar Wilde 

14. “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” George Orwell

15. “Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.” — John Milton

16. “It’s not unpatriotic to denounce an injustice committed on our behalf; perhaps it’s the most patriotic thing we can do.” — E.A Bucchianeri  

17. “Ultimately, saying that you don’t care about privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different from saying you don’t care about freedom of speech because you have nothing to say.” — Edward Snowden

18. “Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un—American act that could most easily defeat us.” — William O. Douglas

19. “Freedom of speech is unnecessary if the people to whom it is granted do not think for themselves.” — Mokokoma Mokhonoana 

20. “Free speech is unthinkable. All other kinds of freedom are permitted. You are free to be a drunkard, an idler, a coward, a backbiter, a fornicator; but you are not free to think for yourself.”George Orwell

Free Speech Quotes About What It Means to Different People

People worldwide have different ideas about what freedom of speech means. 

21. “Hot weather brings out snakes and slaveholders, and I like one class of the venomous creatures as little as I do the other. What a comfort it is to be free to say so!” — Harriet Jacobs 

22. “If my freedom of speech hurts your sentiment, no doubt you are SentiMental” ― Dr.P.S. Jagadeesh Kumar

23. “Having the freedom of speech doesn’t mean saying whatever you want. It means saying what’s humane, hateless, and non—prejudicial.” ― Abhijit Naskar 

24. “I am well acquainted with all the arguments against freedom of thought and speech — the arguments which claim that it cannot exist, and the arguments which claim that it ought not to. I answer simply that they don’t convince me and that our civilization over a period of four hundred years has been founded on the opposite notice.” — George Orwell 

25. “Freedom of speech is a fallacy; it is not absolute. It can be hailed absolute only if the person possessing it has the conscience to distinguish the right from the wrong, justice from injustice, acceptance from discrimination.” ― Abhijit Naskar

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26. “If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” George Washington 

27. “Without Freedom of Thought, there can be no such thing as Wisdom; and no such thing as public Liberty, without Freedom of Speech.” Ben Franklin

28. “Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.” Harry Truman

29. “Cancel culture is a term bounced around by people afraid of accountability. But freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences.” — Monisha Rajesh

30. “To view the opposition as dangerous is to misunderstand the basic concepts of democracy. To oppress the opposition is to assault the very foundation of democracy.” — Aung San Suu Kyi

Free speech quotes to inspire and teach

This collection of quotes captures the meaning of free speech. 

31. “The opinion that one cannot express an opinion, however potentially harmful, is the most dangerous of all.” — Luigina Sgarro

32. “Censors never go after books unless kids already like them. I don’t even think they know to go after books until they know that children are interested in reading this book. Therefore there must be something in it that’s wrong.” — Judy Blume

33. “I know what it’s like to live in a place where people have no choices. What happens in a world like that, when you’re unable to speak out against something you think is wrong?” — Mary Lu

34. “The more you talk about something or someone or prevent them from expressing themselves, the more you give them strength, even — and perhaps above all — when you talk about them badly.” — Luigina Sgarro

35. “When my brothers try to draw a circle to exclude me, I shall draw a larger circle to include them. Where they speak out for the privileges of a puny group, I shall shout for the rights of all mankind.” — Pauli Murray

36. “What else do we have to expose and investigate corruption and maintain informed citizenry? When all levels of government and justice system are abusing power, where can people go with claims of that abuse? Only the press.” — JoeAnn Hart

37. “The right to have the freedom of speech is a high Good, which is there to express one’s thoughts and emotions to others in any manner without having to fear to be punished for.” — Vivian Schey 

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38. “The only effective way that I know of to fight an idea that we believe to be potentially damaging to our values, principles, ideals, is to try to support the validity of alternative points of view.” — Luigina Sgarro

39. “Education is the way to move mountains, to build bridges, to change the world. Education is the path to the future. I believe that education is indeed freedom.” Oprah Winfrey 

40. “A person’s a person, no matter how small.” Dr. Seuss 

Other inspirational free speech quotes

41. “Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.” Margaret Mead

42. “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” Nelson Mandela

43. “Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.” Margaret Mead

44. “Children are not things to be molded, but are people to be unfolded.” — Jess Lair

45. “If I wait for someone else to validate my existence, it will mean that I’m shortchanging myself.” — Zanele Muholi

46. “It is absolutely imperative that every human being’s freedom and human rights are respected all over the world.” — Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir

47. “I am proud that I found the courage to deal the initial blow to the hydra of public contempt.” — Karl Heinrich Ulrichs

48. “If a transvestite doesn’t say I’m gay, and I’m proud, and I’m a transvestite, then nobody else is going to hop up there and say I’m gay and I’m proud, and I’m a transvestite for them.” — Marsha P. Johnson

49. “Only by speaking out can we create lasting change. And that change begins with coming out.” — Deshane Stokes 

50. “It is against this God who kills that we are fighting and resisting.” — Alexya Salvador

Free speech for all

Most people agree that the freedom to express themselves without hindrance is vital. 

Humans are innately creative, and it is natural to desire full autonomy in expressing ourselves. 

However, we live in a world where our expressions are accountable to the audiences we address. 

Even well-intentioned people have room for improvement. 

It says a lot about humanity that more and more people are getting to share their voices. 

After reading the expressions of those who faced opposition against their voices, do you feel free or limited in how you express yourself? 

If there are limitations, are they self-imposed or from an outside source? 

These are all great questions we can ask ourselves when thinking about our freedom of speech. 

Let us know your favorite free speech quotes and sayings in the comments below.

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