"No Struggle, No Progress": Frederick Douglass and His Proverbial Rhetoric for Civil Rights

Front Cover
Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) is a giant among civil rights leaders of the United States. With words and deeds he fought against slavery and championed civil rights for all citizens, regardless of race, gender, or creed. His very own proverbial motto, «If there is no struggle, there is no progress», expresses his moral commitment to free the slaves and to fight for human rights. Much of his rhetorical prowess is based on proverbial language. As an abolitionist, he cites proverbs to argue against slavery. He also employs this Biblical and folk wisdom in his call for liberty and equality, formulating impressive proverbial jeremiads after the Civil War. But proverbs also suit his fight for civil rights, and he makes the Golden Rule («Do onto others as you would have them do onto you.») the ultimate wisdom for human life. These elements of traditional folk speech are certainly part and parcel of Frederick Douglass's social struggle for freedom and equality. This book contains a detailed analysis of Douglass's effective use of proverbial language in his published works. There is also an extensive key-word index of the contextualized occurrences of all proverbs and proverbial expressions used by Frederick Douglass in his crusade for the universal right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

From inside the book

What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.


The crushed worm may yet turn under the heel of the oppressor
There can be no peace to the wicked
Slavery seemed to me to have about as many lives as a cat

7 other sections not shown

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2001)

The Author: Wolfgang Mieder is Professor of German and Folklore at the University of Vermont. Besides editing Proverbium: Yearbook of International Proverb Scholarship, he is author or co-author of numerous other books on proverbs, including A Dictionary of American Proverbs (1992); Proverbs Are Never out of Season: Popular Wisdom in the Modern Age (1993); Wise Words: Essays on the Proverb (1994); The Proverbial Winston S. Churchill (1995); Proverbs in World Literature: A Bibliography (1996); The Proverbial Harry S. Truman (1997); The Politics of Proverbs: From Traditional Wisdom to Proverbial Stereotypes (1997); Twisted Wisdom: Modern Anti-Proverbs (1999); Proverb Iconography: An International Bibliography (1999); and The Proverbial Abraham Lincoln (2000).

Bibliographic information