Either America will destroy ignorance or ignorance will destroy the United States.
Strive for that greatness of spirit that measures life not by its disappointments but by its possibilities.
Now is the accepted time, not tomorrow, not some more convenient season. It is today that our best work can be done and not some future day or future year. It is today that we fit ourselves for the greater usefulness of tomorrow. Today is the seed time, now are the hours of work, and tomorrow comes the harvest and the playtime.
There is in this world no such force as the force of a person determined to rise. The human soul cannot be permanently chained.
Children learn more from what you are than what you teach.
There is no force equal to a woman determined to rise
Nothing in the world is easier in the United States than to accuse a black man of crime.
We must complain. Yes, plain, blunt complaint, ceaseless agitation, unfailing exposure of dishonesty and wrong – this is the ancient, unerring way to liberty and we must follow it.
One is astonished in the study of history at the recurrence of the idea that evil must be forgotten, distorted, skimmed over. We must not remember that Daniel Webster got drunk but only that he was a splendid constitutional lawyer. We must forget that George Washington was a slave owner . . . and simply remember the things we regard as creditable and inspiring. The difficulty, of course, with this philosophy is that history loses its value as an incentive and example; it paints perfect man and noble nations, but it does not tell the truth.
Education must not simply teach work-it must teach life.
Now is the accepted time, not tomorrow, not some more convenient season. It is today that our best work can be done.
Daily the Negro is coming more and more to look upon law and justice, not as protecting safeguards, but as sources of humiliation and oppression. The laws are made by men who have little interest in him; they are executed by men who have absolutely no motive for treating the black people with courtesy or consideration; and, finally, the accused law-breaker is tried, not by his peers, but too often by men who would rather punish ten innocent Negroes than let one guilty one escape.
To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships.
Today I see more clearly than yesterday that the back of the problem of race and color lies a greater problem which both obscures and implements it: and that is the fact that so many civilized persons are willing to live in comfort even if the price of this is poverty, ignorance, and disease of the majority of their fellow men.
In 1956, I shall not go to the polls. I have not registered. I believe that democracy has so far disappeared in the United States that no ‘two evils’ exist. There is but one evil party with two names, and it will be elected despite all I can do or say.
Ignorance is a cure for nothing.
I am especially glad of the divine gift of laughter: it has made the world human and lovable, despite all its pain and wrong.
I believe that all men, black and brown, and white, are brothers, varying, through Time and Opportunity, in form and gift and feature, but differing in no essential particular, and alike in soul and in the possibility of infinite development.
Oppression costs the oppressor too much if the oppressed stands up and protests. The protest need not be merely physical-the throwing of stones and bullets-if it is mental, spiritual; if it expresses itself in silent, persistent dissatisfaction, the cost to the oppressor is terrific.
Begin with art, because art tries to take us outside ourselves. It is a matter of trying to create an atmosphere and context so conversation can flow back and forth and we can be influenced by each other.
There may often be excuse for doing things poorly in this world, but there is never any excuse for calling a poorly done thing, well done.
The favorite device of the devil, ancient and modern, is to force a human being into a more or less artificial class, accuse the class of unnamed and unnameable sin, and then damn any individual in the alleged class, however innocent he may be.
It is the growing custom to narrow control, concentrate power, disregard and disenfranchise the public; and assuming that certain powers by divine right of money-raising or by sheer assumption, have the power to do as they think best without consulting the wisdom of mankind.
Unfortunately there was one thing that the white South feared more than Negro dishonesty, ignorance, and incompetency, and that was Negro honesty, knowledge, and efficiency.
Men must not only know, they must act.