Civil Rights Movement Quotes

Quotes tagged as "civil-rights-movement" Showing 1-30 of 129
Martin Luther King Jr.
“The question is not if we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. The nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.”
Martin Luther King Jr.

Tariq Ali
“It was civil disobedience that won them their civil rights.”
Tariq Ali, The Obama Syndrome: Surrender at Home, War Abroad

Martin Luther King Jr.
“Three hundred years of humiliation, abuse and deprivation cannot be expected to find voice in a whisper.”
Martin Luther King Jr., Why We Can't Wait

Christopher Hitchens
“For years, I declined to fill in the form for my Senate press credential that asked me to state my 'race,' unless I was permitted to put 'human.' The form had to be completed under penalty of perjury, so I could not in conscience put 'white,' which is not even a color let alone a 'race,' and I sternly declined to put 'Caucasian,' which is an exploded term from a discredited ethnology. Surely the essential and unarguable core of King's campaign was the insistence that pigmentation was a false measure: a false measure of mankind (yes, mankind) and an inheritance from a time of great ignorance and stupidity and cruelty, when one drop of blood could make you 'black.”
Christopher Hitchens

Otis S. Johnson
“If you believe in a cause, be willing to stand up for that cause with a million people or by yourself.”
Otis S. Johnson, From "N Word" to Mr. Mayor: Experiencing the American Dream

Margaret McMullan
“Sit on the truth too long and you mash the life right out of it.”
Margaret McMullan, Sources of Light

Timothy B. Tyson
“The self-congratulatory popular account insists that Dr. King called on the nation to fully accept its own creed, and the walls came a-tumbling down. This conventional narrative is soothing, moving, and politically acceptable, and has only the disadvantage of bearing no resemblance to what actually happened.”
Timothy B. Tyson, Blood Done Sign My Name: A True Story

Angela Y. Davis
“When Black women stand up— as they did during the Montgomery Bus Boycott—as they did during the Black liberation era, earth-shaking changes occur.”
Angela Y. Davis, Freedom Is a Constant Struggle

“Senator John Stennis:
The civil rights movement did more to free the white man that the black man. ... It freed my soul.”
Joe Biden, Promises to Keep: On Life and Politics

“It is, in short, the growing conviction that the Negroes cannot win—a conviction with much grounding in experience—which accounts for the new popularity of black power. So far as the ghetto Negro is concerned, this conviction expresses itself in hostility, first toward the people closest to him who have held out the most promise and failed to deliver (Martin Luther King, Roy Wilkins, etc.), then toward those who have proclaimed themselves his friends (the liberals and the labor movement), and finally toward the only oppressors he can see (the local storekeeper and the policeman on the corner). On the leadership level, the conviction that the Negroes cannot win takes other forms, principally the adoption of what I have called a "no-win" policy. Why bother with programs when their enactment results only in sham? Why concern ourselves with the image of the movement when nothing significant has been gained for all the sacrifices made by SNCC and CORE? Why compromise with reluctant white allies when nothing of consequence can be achieved anyway? Why indeed have anything to do with whites at all?

On this last point, it is extremely important for white liberals to understand what, one gathers from their references to "racism in reverse," the President and the Vice-President of the United States do not: that there is all the difference in the world between saying, "If you don't want me, I don't want you" (which is what some proponents of black power have in effect been saying), and the statement, "Whatever you do, I don't want you" (which is what racism declares). It is, in other words, both absurd and immoral to equate the despairing response of the victim with the contemptuous assertion of the oppressor. It would, moreover, be tragic if white liberals allowed verbal hostility on the part of Negroes to drive them out of the movement or to curtail their support for civil rights. The issue was injustice before black power became popular, and the issue is still injustice.”
Bayard Rustin, Down The Line

“The Negro struggle has hardly run its course; and it will not stop moving until it has been utterly defeated or won substantial equality. But I fail to see how the movement can be victorious in the absence of radical programs for full employment, the abolition of slums, the reconstruction of our educational system, new definitions of work and leisure. Adding up the cost of such programs, we can only conclude that we are talking about a refashioning of our political economy.”
Bayard Rustin, Down The Line

“There is, as well, a tactical side to the new emphasis on self-defense and the suggestion that nonviolence be abandoned. The reasoning here is that turning the other cheek is not the way to win respect, and that only if the Negro succeeds in frightening the white man will the white man begin taking him seriously. The trouble with this reasoning is that it fails to recognize that fear is more likely to bring hostility to the surface than respect. Far from prodding the "white power structure" into action, the new militant leadership, by raising the slogan of black power and lowering the banner of nonviolence, has obscured the moral issue facing this nation, and permitted the President and Vice-President to lecture us about "racism in reverse" instead of proposing more meaningful programs for dealing with the problems of unemployment, housing, and education.”
Bayard Rustin, Down The Line

Angela Y. Davis
“The Black Power movement—or what we referred to at the time as the Black liberation movement...was a response to what were perceived as limitations of the civil rights movement: we not only needed to
claim legal rights within the existing society but also to demand substantive rights—in jobs, housing, health care, education, et cetera.”
Angela Y. Davis, Freedom Is a Constant Struggle

Angela Y. Davis
“The civil rights movement was very successful in what it achieved: the legal eradication of racism and the dismantling of the apparatus of segregation. This happened and we should not underestimate its importance. The problem is that it is often assumed that the eradication of the legal apparatus is equivalent to the abolition of racism. But racism persists in a framework that is far more expansive, far vaster than the legal framework.”
Angela Y. Davis, Freedom Is a Constant Struggle

“Children holding hands, walking with the wind. That is America to me- not just the movement for civil rights, but the endless struggle to respond with decency, dignity, and a sense of brotherhood to all the challenges that face us as a nation, as a whole.”
John Lewis

Langston Hughes
“Since I saw them pictures a while back on the front page of The New York Times of that police dog in Birmingham biting a young black student in the stomach, I have ceased to like white folks," said Simple.

"As bad as Birmingham is," I said, "surely you do not blame white people in New York or Detroit or San Francisco for that Alabama dog."

"I do," said Simple, "because white folks is in the majority every-where. They control the government in Washington, and if they let such doings go on in this American country, such as has been going on in Alabama and Mississippi, I blame them all. If white folks was bit by police dogs and prodded with electric rods, you can bet your bottom dollar something would be done about it—and quick—before you could say Jackie Robinson."

"You are no doubt right," I said, "but as long as they themselves are not bitten by dogs and prodded by electric rods and denied the right to march or to vote, most white folks in the North will do very little to help Southern Negroes."

"And I will do very little toward loving them," said Simple.”
Langston Hughes, The Return of Simple

Greg Grandin
“The Confederate flag stopped flying as the pennant of reconciliation, the joining of the southern military tradition to northern establishment might to spread Americanism abroad. It now was the banner of those who felt that the establishment had sacrificed that tradition, "stabbed it in the back." The battle flag became the banner not of a specific Lost Cause but of all of white supremacy's lost causes.”
Greg Grandin, The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America

Jean Baudrillard
“In fact, everything that was so much trouble to separate, to sex, to transcend, to sublimate and to metamorphose by distance is today being constantly melded together. All that has been wrested from reality we are in the process of realizing by force - there will always be a technique for laying hold of it and making it operational. 'You dreamed it, we made it.' Everything that was so much trouble to destroy, we are today hell-bent on restoring. What we have here, in fact, is an immense reductionism, an immense revisionism.”
Jean Baudrillard, The Intelligence of Evil or the Lucidity Pact

“Lawson taught us how to protect ourselves, how to disarm our attackers by connecting with their humanity, how to protect each other, how to survive. But the hardest part to learn -- to truly understand, deep in your heart -- was how to find love for your attacker.”
Andrew Aydin John Lewis

“Violence does beget violence, but the opposite is also true. Fury spends itself pretty quickly when there's no fury facing it.”
Andrew Aydin John Lewis

“On my application, I wrote: "I know that an education is important and I hope to get one, but human dignity is the most important thing in my life. This is the most important decision in my life -- to decide to give up ALL if necessary for the freedom ride, that justice and freedom might come to the deep south.”
Andrew Aydin John Lewis

“Please tell the attorney general that we've been cooling off for 350 years -- if we cool off any more, we will be in a deep freeze.”
Andrew Aydin John Lewis

“Where is OUR party?! Where is the political party that will make it UNNECESSARY to march on Washington?!”
Andrew Aydin John Lewis

“To those who have said, 'Be patient and wait,' we have long said we CANNOT be patient. We do NOT want our freedom gradually, but we want to be FREE NOW!”
Andrew Aydin John Lewis

“It is essential that this Convention repudiate here and now any doctrinaire, militant minority, whether Communist, Ku Klux Klan or Bircher which would subvert this party to purposes alien to the very basic tenets which gave this party birth.

"Precisely one year ago today on July 14, 1963, I issued a statement wherein I warned that:

"'The Republican party is in real danger of subversion by a radical, well-financed and highly disciplined minority.'

"At that time I pointed out that the purpose of this minority were 'wholly alien to the sound and honest conservatism that has firmly based the Republican party in the best of a century's traditions, wholly alien to the sound and honest Republican liberalism that has kept the party abreast of human needs in a changing world, wholly alien to the broad middle course that accommodates the mainstream of Republican principles.'

"Our sole concern must be the future well-being of America, and of freedom and respect for human dignity - the preservation and enhancement of these principles upon which this nation has achieved its greatness."

-Nelson Rockefeller at the 1964 Republican National Convention”
Andrew Aydin John Lewis

“It tends to be forgotten, among the moments of drama and violence, just how many days of uneventful protest took place outside the courtrooms and jails. No one was let into the courthouse. No one was registered to vote. But the line was drawn.”
Andrew Aydin John Lewis

“I don't know how President Johnson can send troops to Vietnam. I don't see how he can send troops to the Congo. I don't see how we can send troops to Africa, and he can't send troops to Selma, Alabama." -John Lewis”
Andrew Aydin John Lewis

“I speak tonight for the dignity of man and the destiny of democracy. . . . At times history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man's unending search for freedom. So it was at Lexington and Concord. So it was a century ago at Appomattox. So it was last week in Selma, Alabama.

There, long-suffering men and women peacefully protested the denial of their rights as Americans. Many were brutally assaulted. One good man, a man of God, was killed.

There is no cause for pride in what has happened in Selma. There is no cause for self-satisfaction in the long denial of equal rights of millions of Americans. But there is cause for hope and for faith in our democracy in what is happening here tonight.

For the cries of pain and the hymns and protests of oppressed people have summoned into convocation all the majesty of this great Government--the Government of the greatest Nation on earth.

Our mission is at once the oldest and the most basic of this country: to right wrong, to do justice, to serve man.

In our time we have come to live with moments of great crisis. Our lives have been marked with debate about great issues; issues of war and peace, issues of prosperity and depression. But rarely in any time does an issue lay bare the secret heart of America itself. Rarely are we met with a challenge, not to our growth or abundance, our welfare or our security, but rather to the values and the purposes and the meaning of our beloved Nation.

The issue of equal rights for American Negroes is such an issue. And should we defeat every enemy, should we double our wealth and conquer the stars, and still be unequal to this issue, then we will have failed as a people and as a nation.

For with a country as with a person, "What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul ?"

There is no Negro problem. There is no Southern problem. There is no Northern problem. There is only an American problem.

. . . But even if we pass this bill, the battle will not be over. What happened in Selma is part of a far larger movement which reaches into every section and State of America. It is the effort of American Negroes to secure for themselves the full blessings of American life.

Their cause must be our cause too. Because it is not just Negroes, but really it is all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice.

And we shall overcome."

-Lyndon B. Johnson, 15 March 1965”
Andrew Aydin John Lewis

“This is a revolution -- a revolution that won't fire a SHOT! We come to love the HELL out of the state of Alabama!" -John Lewis”
Andrew Aydin John Lewis

Dwight D. Eisenhower
“There was only one justification for the use of troops; to uphold the law. Though Faubus denied it, I, as President of the United States, now had that justification and the clear obligation to act ... the 101st Airborne Division, from nearby Fort Campbell, Kentucky, arrived in Little Rock; another five hundred moved in later the same day.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower

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