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Frederick Douglass Declares There Is "No Progress Without Struggle"

Frederick Douglass was an escaped slave, a leader of the anti-slavery movement in the North, editor of the abolitionist newspaper The North Star and, after the Civil War, a diplomat for the U.S. government. This excerpt is from an address on West India Emancipation, delivered August 4, 1857.

Let me give you a word of the philosophy of reforms. 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. . .

If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the roar of its mighty waters.

The struggle may be a moral one or it may be a physical one, or it may both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has and it never will. Find out just what a people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount 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 in the North, and held and flogged at in 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 oppression 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.

Source | Frederick Douglass, "No Progress Without Struggle," available from The W.E.B. DuBois Learning Center, http://www.duboislc.org/html/BlackStruggle.html.
Creator | Frederick Douglass
Item Type | Speech
Cite This document | Frederick Douglass, “Frederick Douglass Declares There Is "No Progress Without Struggle",” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed August 25, 2019, https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/1245.

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