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Civil Rights

  • All of us in this country give lip service to the ideals set forth in the Bill of Rights and emphasized by every additional amendment, and yet when war is stirring in the world, many of us are ready to curtail our civil liberties. We do not stop to think that curtailing these liberties may in the end bring us a greater danger than the danger we are trying to avert.

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

  • The laws ought to be so framed as to secure the safety of every citizen as much as possible. ... Political liberty does not consist in the notion that a man may do whatever he pleases; liberty is the right to do whatsoever the laws allow. ... The equality of the citizens consists in that they should all be subject to the same laws.

  • I would not open windows into men's souls.

    • Elizabeth I,
    • c. 1559, in J.B. Black, The Reign of Elizabeth 1558-1603 ()
  • It's appalling that there have to be movements organized to give human beings the right to be human beings in the eyes of other human beings.

  • I am above eighty years old ... I suppose I am about the only colored woman that goes about to speak for the rights of the colored women. I want to keep the thing stirring, now that the ice is cracked.

    • Sojourner Truth,
    • in Carleton Mabee, Sojourner Truth: Slave, Prophet, Legend ()
  • Children, I talks to God and God talks to me. I goes out and talks to God in de fields and de woods. Dis morning I was walking out, and I got over de fence. I saw de wheat a holding up its head, looking very big. I goes up and takes holt ob it. You b'lieve it, dere was no wheat dare? I says, God, what is de matter wid dis wheat? and he says to me, 'Sojourner, dere is a little weasel in it.' Now I hears talkin' about de Constitution and de rights of man. I comes up and I takes hold of dis Constitution It looks mighty big, and I feels for my rights, but der aint any dare. Den I says, God, what ails dis Constitution? He says to me, 'Sojourner, dere is a little weasel in it.'

  • The investigation of the rights of the slave has led me to a better understanding of my own. I have found the anti-slavery cause to be ... the school in which human rights are more fully investigated and better understood and taught than in any other.

  • When they asked for those to raise their hands who'd go down to the courthouse the next day [to vote], I raised mine. Had it up as high as I could get it. I guess I'd had any sense I'd a-been a little scared, but what was the point of being scared. The only thing they could do to me was kill me and it seemed like they'd been trying to do that a little bit at a time ever since I could remember.

    • Fannie Lou Hamer,
    • To Praise Our Bridges: An Autobiography of Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer
    • ()
  • [On those trying to obstruct her work for civil rights:] There was nothing they could do to me. They couldn't fire me, because I didn't have a job. They couldn't put me out of my house, because I didn't have one. They was nothing they could take from me any longer.