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slavery Quotes

92 of the best book quotes about slavery
  1. #1
    “Poppa fought like a lion when they came for him, the strongest lion, roaring; it took five of them with hickory clubs, and then Momma fainted, and I caught baby Ruth.”
  2. #2
    “She did not look into my eyes, did not see the lion inside. She did not see the me of me, the Isabel.”
  3. #3
    “I was lost . . . but it was like looking at a knot, knowing it was a knot, but not knowing how to untie it. I had no map for this life.”
  4. #4
    “He freed me from the stocks. He is my friend. My only friend.”
  5. #5
    “Being loyal to the one who owned me gave me prickly thoughts, like burrs trapped in my shift, pressing into my skin with every step.”
  6. #6
    “One by one they dragged us forward, and a man shouted out prices to the crowd of likely buyers and baby Ruth cried, and Momma shook like the last leaf on a tree, and Poppa… and Poppa, he didn’t want them to bust up our family like we were sheep or hogs.”
  7. #7
    “In other words, when a sixth of the population of a nation which has undertaken to be the refuge of liberty are slaves, and a whole country is unjustly overrun and conquered by a foreign army, and subjected to military law, I think that it is not too soon for honest men to rebel and revolutionize.”
  8. #8
    A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude.
  9. #9
    “There is, in fact, a manly and lawful passion for equality which excites men to wish all to be powerful and honored. This passion tends to elevate the humble to the rank of the great; but there exists also in the human heart a depraved taste for equality, which impels the weak to attempt to lower the powerful to their own level, and reduces men to prefer equality in slavery to inequality with freedom.”
  10. #10
    “Slavery, as we shall afterwards show, dishonors labor; it introduces idleness into society, and with idleness, ignorance and pride, luxury and distress. It enervates the powers of the mind, and benumbs the activity of man.”
  11. #11
    “I worked as a puppet trained to scrub and carry, curtsy and nod.”
  1. #12
    “They give us a pair of linen drawers for our whole garment twice a year. When we work at the sugar-canes, and the mill snatches hold of a finger, they cut off the hand; and when we attempt to run away, they cut off the leg; both cases have happened to me. This is the price at which you eat sugar in Europe.”
  2. #13
    “I could not eat or drink a thing for my belly was tied up with fear. My thoughts chased round and round my brainpan.”
  3. #14
    “A scar is a sign of strength . . . The sign of a survivor.”
  4. #15
    “Whatever slavery might do to me, it could not shackle my children.”
  5. #16
    “I can testify, from my own experience and observation, that slavery is a curse to the whites as well as to the blacks.”
  6. #17
    “He tried his utmost to corrupt the pure principles my grandmother had instilled . . . But he was my master. I was compelled to live under the same roof with him.”
  7. #18
    “If slavery had been abolished I too could have married the man of my choice; I could have had a home shielded by the laws.”
  8. #19
    “I was born a slave; but I never knew it till six years of happy childhood had passed away.”
  9. #20
    “I know I did wrong. No one can feel it more sensibly than I do…Still, in looking back, calmly, on the events of my life, I feel that the slave woman ought not to be judged by the same standard as others.”
  10. #21
    “Some are too much brutalized by slavery to feel the humiliation of their position; but many slaves feel it most acutely, and shrink from the memory of it.”
  11. #22
    “Slavery is terrible for men; but it is far more terrible for women.”
  1. #23
    “I would ten thousand times rather that my children should be the half-starved paupers of Ireland than to be the most pampered among the slaves of America.”
  2. #24
    “They thought he had spoiled his children, by teaching them to feel that they were human beings. This was blasphemous doctrine for a slave to teach…”
  3. #25
    “Half my roll disappeared in one bite. It was the first decent food I’d had since Jenny’s kitchen. Curzon watched me without saying a word. When I licked the butter off my fingers, he gave me his roll.”
  4. #26
    “We couldn’t take Momma’s shells, nor Ruth’s baby doll made of flannel bits and calico, nor the wooden bowl Poppa made for me. Nothing belonged to us.”
  5. #27
    “Some people build fences to keep people out and other people build fences to keep people in. Rose wants to hold on to you all. She loves you.”
  6. #28
    “Daddy once told me there’s a rage passed down to every black man from his ancestors, born the moment they couldn’t stop the slave masters from hurting their families. Daddy also said there’s nothing more dangerous than when that rage is activated.”
  7. #29
    “If men were equal in America, all these Poles and English and Czechs and blacks, then they were equal everywhere, and there was really no such thing as foreigner; there were only free men and slaves.”
  8. #30
    “If an entire nation could see its freedom, why not a girl?”
  9. #31
    ″‘Not kill us,’ Pigeon corrected. ‘She was mainly just trying to turn us into mindless slaves.‘”
  10. #32
    “Melancholy held me hostage, and the bees built a hive of sadness in my soul. Dark honey filled up inside me, drowning out my thoughts and making it hard to move my eyes and hands.”
  11. #33
    “I have observed this in my experience of slavery, - that whenever my condition was improved, instead of its increasing my contentment, it only increased my desire to be free, and set me to thinking of plans to gain my freedom. I have found that, to make a contented slave, it is necessary to make a thoughtless one. It is necessary to darken his moral and mental vision, and, as far as possible, to annihilate the power of reason. He must be able to detect no inconsistencies in slavery; he must be made to feel that slavery is right; and he can be brought to that only when he ceased to be a man.”
  1. #34
    “For my part, I should prefer death to hopeless bondage.”
  2. #35
    “My long-crushed spirit rose, cowardice departed, bold defiance took its place; and I now resolved that, however long I might remain a slave in form, the day had passed forever when I could be a slave in fact.”
  3. #36
    “We were both victims to the same overshadowing evil—she, as mistress, I, as slave.”
  4. #37
    “To enslave men, successfully and safely, it is necessary to have their minds occupied with thoughts and aspirations short of the liberty of which they are deprived. A certain degree of attainable good must be kept before them.”
  5. #38
    “Should a slave, when assaulted, but raise his hand in self defense, the white assaulting party is fully justified by southern, or Maryland, public opinion, in shooting the slave down.”
  6. #39
    “At the onset of the Civil War, our stolen bodies were worth four billion dollars, more than all of American industry, all of American railroads, workshops, and factories combined, and the prime product rendered by our stolen bodies — cotton — was America’s primary export.”
  7. #40
    “The dictator, or consul, had a right to command the service of the Roman youth; and to punish an obstinate or cowardly disobedience by the most severe and ignominious penalties, by striking the offender out of the list of citizens, by confiscating his property, and by selling his person into slavery. The most sacred rights of freedom, confirmed by the Porcian and Sempronian laws, were suspended by the military engagement.”
  8. #41
    “You cannot forget how ... they transfigured our very bodies into sugar, tobacco, cotton, and gold.”
  9. #42
    “The runaway slave came to my house and stopt outside,
    I heard his motions crackling the twigs of the woodpile,
    Through the swung half-door of the kitchen I saw him limpsy and weak,
    And went where he sat on a log and led him in and assured him,
    And brought water and fill’d a tub for his sweated body and bruis’d feet,
    And gave him a room that enter’d from my own, and gave him some coarse clean clothes,
    And remember perfectly well his revolving eyes and his awkwardness,
    And remember putting plasters on the galls of his neck and ankles;
    He staid with me a week before he was recuperated and pass’d north,
    I had him sit next me at table, my fire-lock lean’d in the corner.”
  10. #43
    “Take special care that your thoughts remain unfettered. One may be a free man and yet be bound tighter than a slave.”
  11. #44
    “I do not mean that you should be a slave to any king, but only that you should assist them and be useful to them.” “The change of the word,” said he, “does not alter the matter.”

Books about slavery

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Abe's Honest Words book
Picture book
7.0
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Box: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom book
Picture book
6.0
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Before She Was Harriet book
Picture book
5.5
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Juneteenth for Mazie book
Picture book
5.5
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Freedom Bird: A Tale of Hope and Courage book
Picture book
5.4
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Words Set Me Free book
Picture book
5.3
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Freedom Soup book
Picture book
5.1
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  1. #45
    “The ease. Us, the children… I never realized how easily people could be trained to accept slavery”
  2. #46
    “It was on his grave, my friends, that I resolved, before God, that I would never own another slave, while it is possible to free him; that nobody, through me, should ever run the risk of being parted from home and friends, and dying on a lonely plantation, as he died. So, when you rejoice in your freedom, think that you owe it to that good old soul, and pay it back in kindness to his wife and children. Think of your freedom, every time you see uncle tom’s cabin; and let it be a memorial to put you all in mind to follow in his steps, and be as honest and faithful and Christian as he was.”
  3. #47
    “Was I getting so used to being submissive?
  4. #48
    “Talk of the abuses of slavery! Humbug! The thing itself is the essence of all abuse!”
  5. #49
    “Witness, eternal God! Oh, witness that, from this hour, I will do what one man can to drive out this curse of slavery from my land!”
  6. #50
    “Slavery was a long slow process of dulling.”
  7. #51
    “I remembered suddenly the way he used to talk to his mother. If he couldn’t get what he wanted from her gently, he stopped being gentle. Why not? She always forgave him. ”
  8. #52
    “Dobby does it all himself, sir, but Dobby does not mind, for he always hopes to meet Harry Potter and tonight, sir, he has got his wish!”
  9. #53
    “Mama had to buy our clothes in shifts, which meant that we each had to wait our turn for new clothes.”
  10. #54
    “They also said that slavery was good for us because it taught us to be good Christians—like the white people.” She sighed deeply, her voice fading into a distant whisper. “But they didn’t teach us Christianity to save our souls, but to teach us obedience. They were afraid of slave revolts and they wanted us to learn the Bible’s teachings about slaves being loyal to their masters.”
  11. #55
    “It is a common custom, in the part of Maryland from which I ran away, to part children from their mothers at a very early age. Frequently, before the child has reached its twelfth month, its mother is taken from it, and hired out on some farm a considerable distance off, and the child is placed under the care of an old woman, too old for field labor. For what this separation is done, I do not know, unless it be to hinder the development of the child’s affection toward its mother, and to blunt and destroy the natural affection of the mother for the child. This is the inevitable result.”
  1. #56
    “It was considered as being bad enough to be a slave; but to be a poor man’s slave was deemed a disgrace indeed!”
  2. #57
    “Son — I come from five generations of people who was slaves and sharecroppers – but ain’t nobody in my family never let nobody pay ‘em no money that was a way of telling us we wasn’t fit to walk the earth. We ain’t never been that poor. We ain’t never been that — dead inside.”
  3. #58
    “I have no accurate knowledge of my age, never having seen any authentic record containing it.”
  4. #59
    “I speak advisedly when I say this,—that killing a slave, or any colored person, in Talbot county, Maryland, is not treated as a crime, either by the courts or the community.”
  5. #60
    “I do not remember to have ever met a slave who could tell of his birthday.”
  6. #61
    “If the lineal descendants of Ham are alone to be scripturally enslaved, it is certain that slavery at the south must soon become unscriptural; for thousands are ushered into the world, annually, who, like myself, owe their existence to white fathers, and those fathers most frequently their own masters.”
  7. #62
    “Slaves, when inquired of as to their condition and the character of their masters, almost universally say they are contented, and that their masters are kind. The slaveholders have been known to send in spies among their slaves, to ascertain their views and feelings in regard to their condition. The frequency of this has had the effect to establish among the slaves the maxim, that a still tongue makes a wise head. They suppress the truth rather than take the consequences of telling it.”
  8. #63
    “To be accused was to be convicted, and to be convicted was to be punished; the one always following the other with immutable certainty.”
  9. #64
    “No body can give more power than he has himself; and he that cannot take away his own life, cannot give another power over it.”
  10. #65
    “But one of the worst results of being a slave and being forced to do things is that when there is no one to force you any more you find you have almost lost the power of forcing yourself.”
  11. #66
    “We black men have failed to protect our women since the time of slavery. We stay here in the South and are broken, or we run away and leave them alone to look after the children and themselves.”

Books about freedom

View All
Juneteenth for Mazie book
Picture book
5.5
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Freedom Bird: A Tale of Hope and Courage book
Picture book
5.4
Add to list
Freedom Soup book
Picture book
5.1
Add to list
Tiger Wild book
Picture book
4.9
Add to list
Moon book
Picture book
4.6
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Paolo, Emperor of Rome book
Picture book
4.5
Add to list
  1. #67
    “Here I meditated nothing but my Escape, and what Method I might take to effect it, but found no Way that had the least Probability in it: Nothing presented to make the Supposition of it rational; for I had no body to communicate it to, that would embark with me; no Fellow-Slave, no Englishman, Irishman, or Scotsman there but myself;”
  2. #68
    “in a little Time I began to speak to him, and teach him to speak to me; and first, I made him know his Name should be Friday, which was the Day I sav’d his Life; I call’d him so for the Memory of the Time; I likewise taught him to say Master, and then let him know, that was to be my Name; ”
  3. #69
    ″‘Your Majesty’s tender years,’ said Gumpas, with what was meant to be a fatherly smile, ‘hardly make it possible that you should understand the economic problem involved. I have statistics, I have graphs, I have – ’
    ‘Tender as my years may be,’ said Caspian, ‘I believe I understand the slave trade from within quite as well as your Sufficiency. And I do not see that it brings into the islands meat or bread or beer or wine or timber or cabbages or books or instruments of music or horses or armour or anything else worth having. But whether it does or not, it must be stopped.’
    ‘But that would be putting the clock back,’ gasped the Governor. ‘Have you no idea of progress, of development?’
    ‘I have seen them both in an egg,’ said Caspian. ‘We call it Going bad in Narnia. This trade must stop.‘”
  4. #70
    “In thinking of America, I sometimes find myself admiring her bright blue sky — her grand old woods — her fertile fields — her beautiful rivers — her mighty lakes, and star-crowned mountains. But my rapture is soon checked, my joy is soon turned to mourning. When I remember that all is cursed with the infernal actions of slaveholding, robbery and wrong, — when I remember that with the waters of her noblest rivers, the tears of my brethren are borne to the ocean, disregarded and forgotten, and that her most fertile fields drink daily of the warm blood of my outraged sisters, I am filled with unutterable loathing.”
  5. #71
    “You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man.”
  6. #72
    “Slaves sing most when they are most unhappy. The songs of the slave represent the sorrows of his heart; and he is relieved by them, only as an aching heart is relieved by its tears.”
  7. #73
    “The marriage institution cannot exist among slaves, and one sixth of the population of democratic America is denied it’s privileges by the law of the land. What is to be thought of a nation boasting of its liberty, boasting of it’s humanity, boasting of its Christianity, boasting of its love of justice and purity, and yet having within its own borders three millions of persons denied by law the right of marriage?”
  8. #74
    “A man who will enslave his own blood, may not be safely relied on for magnamity.”
  9. #75
    “Grandmother pointed out my brother Perry, my sister Sarah, and my sister Eliza, who stood in the group. I had never seen my brother nor my sisters before; and, though I had sometimes heard of them, and felt a curious interest in them, I really did not understand what they were to me, or I to them. We were brothers and sisters, but what of that? Why should they be attached to me, or I to them? Brothers and sisters were by blood; but slavery had made us strangers. I heard the words brother and sisters, and knew they must mean something; but slavery had robbed these terms of their true meaning.”
  10. #76
    “We have men sold to build churches, women sold to support the gospel, and babes sold to purchase Bibles for the poor heathen, all for the glory of God and the good of souls. The slave auctioneer’s bell and the church-going bell chime in with each other, and the bitter cries of the heart-broken slave are drowned in the religious shouts of his pious master. Revivals of religion and revivals in the slave trade go hand in hand.”
  11. #77
    “It was the time to hear things and talk. These sitters had been tongueless, earless, eyeless conveniences all day long. Mules and other brutes had occupied their skins. But now, the sun and the bossman were gone, so the skins felt powerful and human. They became lords of sounds and lesser things. They passed nations through their mouths. They sat in judgment.”
  1. #78
    “Honey, de white man is de ruler of everything as fur as Ah been able tuh find out. Maybe it’s some place way off in de ocean where de black man is in power, but we don’t know nothin’ but what we see. So de white man throw down de load and tell de nigger man tuh pick it up. He pick it up because he have to, but he don’t tote it. He hand it to his womenfolks. De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah can see.”
  2. #79
    “The chain? It binds me to the stall. I am the personal slave of the witch-woman who owns the stall. She caught me many years ago, luring me on and on in the form of a pretty frog always but a moment out of my reach, until I had left my father’s lands, unwittingly, whereupon she resumed her true shape and popped me into a sack.”
  3. #80
    “The unfree man always idolizes his slavery.”
  4. #81
    “And yet the fire through which Alexander Crummell went did not burn in vain. Slowly and more soberly he took up again his plan of life. More critically he studied the situation. Deep down below the slavery and servitude of the Negro people he saw their fatal weaknesses, which long years of mistreatment had emphasized. The dearth of strong moral character, of unbending righteousness, he felt, was their great shortcoming, and here he would begin.”
  5. #82
    “There are and always will be some who, ashamed of the behaviour of their ancestors, try to prove that slavery was not so bad after all, that its evils and its cruelty were the exaggerations of propagandists and not the habitual lot of the slaves. Men will say (and accept) anything in order to foster national pride or soothe a troubled conscience.”
  6. #83
    “I looked at Natividad who sat a short distance away, on spread out sleepsacks, playing with her baby and talking to Zahra. She had been lucky. Did she know? How many other people were less lucky—unable to escape the master’s attentions or gain the mistress’s sympathies. How far did masters and mistresses go these days toward putting less than submissive servants in their places?”
  7. #84
    “Arguably the most important parallel between mass incarceration and Jim Crow is that both have served to define the meaning and significance of race in America. Indeed, a primary function of any racial caste system is to define the meaning of race in its time. Slavery defined what it meant to be black (a slave), and Jim Crow defined what it meant to be black (a second-class citizen).”
  8. #85
    “Arguably the most important parallel between mass incarceration and Jim Crow is that both have served to define the meaning and significance of race in America. Indeed, a primary function of any racial caste system is to define the meaning of race in its time. Slavery defined what it meant to be black (a slave), and Jim Crow defined what it meant to be black (a second-class citizen).”
  9. #86
    ″ A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property—either as a child, a wife, or a concubine—must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.”
  10. #87
    “A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property—either as a child, a wife, or a concubine—must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.”
  11. #88
    “Let the compromising expedient of the constitution be mutually adopted, which regards them as inhabitants, but as debased by servitude below the equal level of free inhabitants, which regards the slave as divested of two-fifths of the man.”
  12. #89
    “I can imagine that if my life had taken a certain turn, there would be the Barclays Bank, and there I would be, both of us in ashes. Do you every try to understand why people like me cannot get over the past?”
  13. #90
    “I never did go to school—I was too old at the Surrender,” she said in a soft voice.
  14. #91
    ″‘Seem like there is chains about my feet, time I get this far,’ she said.”
  15. #92
    “I’m an old woman without an education. It was my memory fail me.”
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