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Civil Rights Quotes

Civil rights, the rights of citizenship, are the human rights of personal liberties granted by a nation for all its citizens and encompass guaranteed priviliges and protections which may be written or based on custom.

The United States Constitution provides written protections, additionally federal statutes, state constitutions and statutes, and even in local ordinances which can expand civil rights but cannot diminish Constitutional grants. Discrimination occurs when the civil rights of an individual are denied or interfered with because of their membership in a particular group or class.

Examples of civil rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution, amendments and federal statutes are freedom of speech, press, assembly, right to vote, freedom from involuntary servitude (slavery), the right to equality in public places, and prevent discrimination based on a persons race, sex, religion, age, previous condition of servitude, physical limitation, national origin and in some instances sexual preference.

Quotes Index

Crossroads of Dreams, Poster
Crossroads of Dreams, Poster

Crossroads of Dreams
Rosa Parks quotes:
“The only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”
“My only concern was to get home after a hard day's work.”
“Each person must live their life as a model for others.”
“Memories of our lives, of our work and our deeds will continue in others.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes:
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
“A right delayed is a right denied.”
“I have a dream that my our little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Justice William J. Brennan ~

“The Framers of the Bill of Rights did not purport to “create” rights. Rather, they designed the Bill of Rights to prohibit our Government from infringing rights and liberties presumed to be preexisting. 

Justice William O. Douglas ~

“A people who extend civil liberties only to preferred groups start down the path either to dictatorship of the right or the left.” [William O. Douglas]

Frederick Douglass ~

“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 posters]

Alexis de Tocqueville ~

“I am obliged to confess that I do not regard the abolition of slavery as a means of warding off the struggle of the two races in the Southern states. The Negroes may long remain slaves without complaining; but if they are once raised to the level of freemen, they will soon revolt at being deprived of almost all their civil rights; and as they cannot become the equals of the whites, they will speedily show themselves as enemies.” [de Tocqueville print]

Martin Luther King, Jr. ~

“Being a Negro in America means trying to smile when you want to cry. It means trying to hold on to physical life amid psychological death. It means the pain of watching your children grow up with clouds of inferiority in their mental skies. It means having their legs off, and then being condemned for being a cripple.” Where Do We Go From Here? 1967.

“In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, as ‘right-to-work.’ It provides no ‘rights’ and no ‘works.’ Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining... We demand this fraud be stopped.”

[MLK Posters] [MLK Quotes]

Malcolm X ~

“We don’t go for segregation. We go for separation. Separation is when you have your own. You control your own economy; you control your own politics; you control your own society; you control your own everything. You have yours and you control yours; we have ours and we control ours.” Comment 23rd January 1963.

Malcolm X Poster
Malcolm X
Quotes Poster

• “You're not to be so blind with patriotism that you can't face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.”
• “Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone, but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery.”
• “Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you're a man, you take it.”
• “Power never takes a back step - only in the face of more power.”
• “Sitting at the table doesn't make you a diner, unless you can some of what's on that plate. Being here in America doesn't make you an American. Being born here in America doesn't make you an American.”
• “Time is on the side of the oppressed today, it's against the oppressor. Truth is on the side of the oppressed today, it's against the oppressor. You don't need anything else.”
• “Usually when people are sad, they don't do anything. They just cry over their condition. But when they get angry, they bring about a change.”
• “You can't separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.”
• “I believe in the brotherhood of man, all men, but I don't believe in brotherhood with anybody who doesn't want brotherhood with me. I believe in treating people right, but I'm not going to waste my time trying to treat somebody right who doesn't know how to return the treatment.
• “Without education, you're not going anywhere in this world.”
• “I believe that there will ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and those that do the oppressing. I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the system of exploitation.”
• “I am not a racist, I am against every form of racism and segregation, every form of discrimination. I believe in human beings, and that all human beings should be respected as such, regardless of their color.”
• “If you're not ready to die for it, put the word ‘freedom’ out of your vocabulary.”
• “It's just like when you've got some coffee that's too black, which means it's it's too strong. What do you do? You integrate it with cream, you make it weak. But if you pour too much cream in it, you won't even know you ever had coffee. It used to be hot, it becomes cool. It used to be strong, it becomes weak. It used to wake you up, now it puts you to sleep.”
• “You don't have to be a man to fight or freedom. All you have to do isto be an intelligent human being.”
• “We are nonviolent with people who are nonviolent with us.”
• “A race of people islike an individual man; until it uses its own talent, takes pride in its own history, expresses its own culture, affirms its own selfhood, it can never fulfill itself.”
• “I for one believe that if you give people a thorough understanding of what confronts them and the basic causes that produce it, they'e create their own program, and when the people create a program, you get action.”
• “It is a time for martyrs now, and if I am to be one, it will be for the cause of brotherhood. That's the only thing that can save this country.”

[more Malcolm X posters]

Abraham Lincoln -

“Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.” [Abraham Lincoln posters]

Hubert Humphrey -

“There are those who say to you - we are rushing this issue of civil rights. I say we are 172 years late.” Speech at Democrat National Convention, 14th July 1948.

Benjamin Harrison -

• “When and under what conditions is the black man to have a free ballot? When is he in fact to have those full civil rights which have so long been his in law?” ~ First Annual Message, 12-3-1889

Lyndon B. Johnson -

“The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men." Speech, Washington D.C. 6th August 1965

“A rioter with a Molotov cocktail in his hands is not fighting for civil rights any more than a Klansman... They are both... lawbreakers, destroyers of constitutional rights and liberties and ultimately destroyers of a free America.” [LBJ poster]

John Fitzgerald Kennedy -

“There are no ‘white’ or ‘coloured’ signs on the foxholes or graveyards of battle." Message to Congress 19th June 1963.

“We are confronted primarily with a moral issue… whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated.” Referring to race riots in Alabama in a radio broadcast 11th June 1963. [Kennedy poster]

Harry S Truman -

“Every segment of our population, and every individual, has a right to expect from his government a fair deal.” Speech to Congress 6th September 1945. [Truman poster]

Dick Gregory -

“Civil Rights: What black folks are given in the U.S. on the installment plan, as in civil-rights bills. Not to be confused with human rights, which are the dignity, stature, humanity, respect, and freedom belonging to all people by right of their birth.”

Letty Cottin Pogrebin (a founding editor of Ms. magazine) -

Children's liberation is the next item on our civil rights shopping list.”

“No laborer in the world is expected to work for room, board, and love - except the housewife”

Shirley Chisholm -

“In the end antiblack, antifemale, and all forms of discrimination are equivalent to the same thing - antihumanism.” [Shirley Chisholm posters]

Will Rogers -

“I have always claimed Americans didn't want a drink as bad as they wanted the right to take a drink if they did happen to want one.” [Will Rogers poster]

Susan B. Anthony & Elizabeth Cady Stanton -

Suffragists poster Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
& Susan B. Anthony

“Men their rights and nothing more; women their rights and nothing less.” The motto of Stanton and Anthony's newspaper, The Revolution, 1868.

Civil Rights Leaders Poster currently not available
Civil Rights
Leaders Poster
currently not available

Composite poster of twelve civil rights leaders with quotes-

Cesar Chavez - “Nonviolence takes time. I despise exploitation and I want change, but I'm willing to pay the price in terms of time. There's a Mexican saying, ‘There's more time than life.’ We've got all the time in the world.” Cesar Chavez, Autobiography of La Causa

Thurgood Marshall - “[There] is an inherent determination that the people formerly in slavery shall be kept as near that stage as possible. Now is the time that this court should make clear that that is not what our Constitution stands for.” Thurgood Marshall, Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, 1955

Susan B. Anthony - “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

Barbara Jordan - “We are attempting to fulfill the promise of America. We are attempting to fulfill our national purpose; to create and sustain a society in which all of us are equal.” Barbara Jordan; Democratic National Convention

George Mason - “We came equals into this world, and equals shall we go out of it. All men are by nature born equally free and independent. To protect the weaker from the injuries and insults of the stronger were societies first formed.” The Papers of George Mason [American Revolution posters]

Martin Luther King, Jr. - “If we protest courageously, and yet with dignity and Christian love, the historians will say. ‘There lived a great people - a black people - who injected new meaning and dignity into the veins of civilization.’ That is our challenge and our overwhelming responsibility.” Martin Luther King, Jr.; Montgomery, AL, 1955

Roger Baldwin
Roger Baldwin

Roger Baldwin - “It's very simple. If the person you hate has no rights, then the person you like may have no rights either, and in order to defend the people you like, you have to defend the people you hate.” Roger Baldwin, Founder of the ACLU

Malcolm X - “We are not fighting for integration, nor are we fighting for separation. We are fighting for recognition as human beings.” Malcolm X, New York, New York, 1964

Thomas Paine - “Every civil right has for its foundation, some natural right preexisting in the individual, but to the enjoyment of which his individual power is not, in all cases, sufficiently competent. Of this kind are all those which relate to security and protection.” Thomas Paine, Rights of Man

Civil Rights Activist Fannie Lou Hammer, Photographic Print
Civil Rights Activist
Fannie Lou Hamer,
Photographic Print

Fannie Lou Hamer - “Nobody's free until everybody's free.” Fannie Lou Hamer, Washington, DC, 1971

Elizabeth Cady Stanton - “All artificial distinction , whether of family, blood, wealth, color, or sex, are equally oppressive to the subject classes, and equally destructive to national life and prosperity.” Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Washington, DC 1869

Frederick Douglass - “Who would be free, themselves must strike the blow. You know liberty given is never so precious as liberty sought for and fought for. Depend upon it, men will not care much for a people who do not care for themselves.” Frederick Douglass, Louisville Convention, 1883

Women of Science composite poster

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