Saturday, May 27, 2006


Originally uploaded by Greatwork.


"Power Concedes Nothing Without A Demand"
Perhaps Frederick Douglass' most famous quote this excerpt comes from a speech that occurred just three short years before the outbreak of the U.S. Civil War. As a premonition of the conflict to come it is chilling, as the words of an escaped slave it is full of the hard won knowledge that life is a struggle. For Douglass the watchword was freedom. - the liberation of his fellow slaves still held in bondage in the south. It was his life long work chronicled here in pictures from various stages of his life.

"Let me give you a word of the philosophy of reform. The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims, have been born of earnest struggle. The conflict has been exciting, agitating, all-absorbing, and for the time being, putting all other tumults to silence. It must do this or it does nothing. If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters."

"This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and 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 just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. In the light of these ideas, Negroes will be hunted at the North, and held and flogged at the South so long as they submit to those devilish outrages, and make no resistance, either moral or physical. Men may not get all they pay for in this world; but they must certainly pay for all they get. If we ever get free from the oppressions and wrongs heaped upon us, we must pay for their removal. We must do this by labor, by suffering, by sacrifice, and if needs be, by our lives and the lives of others."

Frederick Douglass, 1857

“West India Emancipation,” speech delivered at Canandaigua, New York, August 4, 1857.—The Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass, ed. Philip S. Foner, vol. 2, p. 437 (1950).

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