No Struggle, No Progress: the Frederick Douglass Speech We All Need to Memorize

Ajah Hales
2 min readSep 7, 2023

Because sometimes violence is the answer

A burning car
Photo by Flavio on Unsplash

When it comes to Black historic figures, their entire catalog of work is usually reduced to their greatest hits (*coughs in I have a dream*), and Frederick Douglass is no exception.

I grew up hearing the famous quote “power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has and it never will.” What I didn’t grow up with was the inflammatory and infamous speech this quote was taken from.

On August 3, 1857, Douglass spoke at the 23rd West India Emancipation celebration at Canandaigua, New York. After giving a cursory nod to the so -called morality of British abolitionists, he spoke at length about how Black violence was a necessary component of abolition.

“What Wilberforce was endeavoring to win from the British Senate by his magic eloquence, the Slaves themselves were endeavoring to gain by outbreaks and violence. The combined action of one and the other wrought out the final result. While one showed that slavery was wrong, the other showed that it was dangerous as well as wrong.”

Douglass called Margaret Garner, a Black woman who killed her daughter rather than allowing her to be re-enslaved, a benefactress of the race and praised…