“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

– Frederick Douglass [Dubious Attribution, Likely paraphrasing, See Source Notes below]

Quote Number: 196

Source: No attributable source in any of his writings, possibly published elsewhere (like in a transcript of a speech in a local paper), but unlikely given obscurity of all other possible sources

Source Notes: The closest quote found in Douglass’ writings is “Once thoroughly broken down, who is he that can repair the  damage?” It is part of a much longer quote from My Bondage and My Freedom (1855), page 120, that describes the terrible things committed against Douglass as a child.

“The mistress of the house was a model of affection[120] and tenderness. Her fervent piety and watchful uprightness made it impossible to see her without thinking and feeling—”that woman is a Christian.” There was no sorrow nor suffering for which she had not a tear, and there was no innocent joy for which she did not a smile. She had bread for the hungry, clothes for the naked, and comfort for every mourner that came within her reach. Slavery soon proved its ability to divest her of these excellent qualities, and her home of its early happiness. Conscience cannot stand much violence. Once thoroughly broken down, who is he that can repair the damage? It may be broken toward the slave, on Sunday, and toward the master on Monday. It cannot endure such shocks. It must stand entire, or it does not stand at all. If my condition waxed bad, that of the family waxed not better. The first step, in the wrong direction, was the violence done to nature and to conscience, in arresting the benevolence that would have enlightened my young mind. In ceasing to instruct me, she must begin to justify herself to herself; and, once consenting to take sides in such a debate, she was riveted to her position. One needs very little knowledge of moral philosophy, to see where my mistress now landed. She finally became even more violent in her opposition to my learning to read, than was her husband himself. She was not satisfied with simply doing as well as her husband had commanded her, but seemed resolved to better his instruction. Nothing appeared to make my poor mistress—after her turning toward the downward path—more angry, than seeing me, seated in some nook or corner, quietly reading a book or a newspaper. I have had her rush at me, with the utmost fury, and snatch from my hand such newspaper or book, with something of the wrath and consternation which a traitor might be supposed to feel on being discovered in a plot by some dangerous spy.”

– Douglass, Frederick. My Bondage and My Freedom. Champaign, IL.: Project Gutenberg, 2008. 120.

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