Quotations about freedom: civil freedom, personal freedom — the power to choose how to act, speak, and think. Freedom can be a freedom to make one’s thoughts come to fruition in action, and thereby can involve compelling others to act, so that freedom is a power over other people. Or freedom can be to not have others compel us to act. Freedom, at its core, is about autonomy, and some versions of freedom recognize that our freedom is bound up with the freedom of others.

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If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.

— 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

Education means emancipation. It means light and liberty. It means the uplifting of the soul of man into the glorious light of truth, the light by which men can only be made free.

— Frederick Douglass

Nothing has been purchased more dearly than the little bit of reason and sense of freedom which now constitutes our pride.

— Friedrich Nietzsche

The iron chain and the silken cord are both equally bonds.

— Friedrich Schiller

Grace is the beauty of form under the influence of freedom.

— Friedrich Schiller

Democracy has given to conscience absolute liberty.

— George Bancroft

The business of America is not business. Neither is it war. The business of America is justice and securing the blessings of liberty.

— George F. Will

To die hating them, that was freedom.

— George Orwell, 1984

Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth.

— George Washington

Freedom is fragile and must be protected. To sacrifice it, even as a temporary measure, is to betray it.

— Germaine Greer

What is true and beautiful for us is always ultimately what is true and beautiful for our people because there is no such thing as one way liberation.

When we free ourselves, we automatically free everyone around us.

When we grant ourselves permission to live as our truest selves, we automatically grant permission to everyone around us to do the same.

— Glennon Doyle

The authority of any governing institution must stop at its citizen’s skin.

— Gloria Steinem

Even after all this time,
The sun never says to the earth,
‘You owe me.’
Look what happens with
A love like that.
It lights the whole sky.

— Hafiz of Persia

The progression of emancipation of any class usually, if not always, takes place through the efforts of individuals of that class.

— Harriet Martineau

To keep our faces toward change, and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate, is strength undefeatable.

— Helen Keller

Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines. It is not to lead our neighbor into a corner where there are no alternatives left, but to open a wide spectrum of options for choice and commitment. It is not an educated intimidation with good books, good stories, and good works, but the liberation of fearful hearts so that words can find roots and bear ample fruit.

— Henri Nouwen

The paradox of hospitality is that it wants to create emptiness, not a fearful emptiness, but a friendly emptiness where strangers can enter and discover themselves as created free….not a subtle invitation to adopt the life style of the host, but the gift of a chance for the guest to find his own.

— Henri Nouwen

But still – that is our vocation: to convert the hostis into a hospes, the enemy into a guest and to create the free and fearless space where brotherhood and sisterhood can be formed and fully experienced.

— Henri Nouwen

One will only be free when one plays and one’s society will become a piece of art.

— Herbert Marcuse

The spontaneous reproduction of superimposed needs by the individual does not establish autonomy; it only testifies to the efficacy of the control.

— Herbert Marcuse

No one can be perfectly free till all are free; no one can be perfectly moral till all are moral; no one can be perfectly happy till all are happy.

— Herbert Spencer

One certain effect of war is to diminish freedom of expression.

— Howard Zinn

The challenge remains. On the other side are formidable forces: money, political power, the major media. On our side are the people of the world and a power greater than money or weapons: the truth. Truth has a power of its own. Art has a power of its own. That age-old lesson – that everything we do matters – is the meaning of the people’s struggle here in the United States and everywhere. A poem can inspire a movement. A pamphlet can spark a revolution. Civil disobedience can arouse people and provoke us to think. When we organize with one another, when we get involved, when we stand up and speak out together, we can create a power no government can suppress. We live in a beautiful country. But people who have no respect for human life, freedom or justice have taken it over. It is now up to all of us to take it back.

— Howard Zinn

There are incalculable resources in the human spirit, once it has been set free.

— Hubert H. Humphrey

Freedom is hammered out on the anvil of discussion, dissent, and debate.

— Hubert H. Humphrey

Capitalism offers you freedom, but far from giving people freedom, it enslaves them.

— Ian Mckellen

It is not hard to figure out what Native Americans, enslaved Africans, and indentured White servants meant when they demanded liberty in 1776. But what about Jefferson and other slaveholders like him, whose wealth and power were dependent upon their land and their slaves? Did they desire unbridled freedom to enslave and exploit? Did they perceive any reduction in their power to be a reduction in their freedom? For these rich men, freedom was not the power to make choices; freedom was the power to create choices. England created the choices, the policies American elites had to abide by, just as planters created choices and policies that laborers had to follow. Only power gave Jefferson and other wealthy White colonists freedom from England. For Jefferson, power came before freedom. Indeed, power creates freedom, not the other way around — as the powerless are taught.

— Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America

Our watchword has been “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Brave men do not gather by thousands to torture and murder a single individual, so gagged and bound he cannot make even feeble resistance or defense. Neither do brave men and women stand by and see such things done without compunction of conscience, nor read of them without protest.

— Ida B. Wells-Barnett

Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisoned by the enemy, don’t we consider it his duty to escape?. . . If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we’re partisans of liberty, then it’s our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!

— J. R. R. Tolkien
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