"Please stop using the word "Negro."... We are the only human beings in the world with fifty-seven variety of complexions who are classed together as a single racial unit. Therefore, we are really truly colored people, and that is the only name in the English language which accurately describes us."
"I never wear my best coat on a journey, though perchance I could show a certificate to prove that I have a more costly one, at least, at home, if that were all that a gentleman required. It is not wise for a traveler to go dressed. I should no more think of it than of putting on a clean dicky and blacking my shoes to go a-fishing; as if you were going out to dine, when, in fact, the genuine traveler is going out to work hard, and fare harder,--to eat a crust by the wayside whenever he can get it. Honest traveling is about as dirty work as you can do, and a man needs a pair of overalls for it. As for blacking my shoes in such a case, I should as soon think of blacking my face."
"Met face to face, these Indians in their native woods looked like the sinister and slouching fellows whom you meet picking up strings and paper in the streets of a city. There is, in fact, a remarkable and unexpected resemblance between the degraded savage and the lowest classes in a great city. The one is no more a child of nature than the other. In the progress of degradation the distinction of races is soon lost."
"A tanned skin is something more than respectable, and perhaps olive is a fitter color than white for a man,--a denizen of the woods. "The pale white man!" I do not wonder that the African pitied him."
"To me, the black black woman is our essential mother--the blacker she is the more us she is--and to see the hatred that is turnedon her is enough to make me despair, almost entirely, of our future as a people."
"The intellect,--that is miraculous! Who has it, has the talisman: his skin and bones, though they were of the color of night, aretransparent, and the everlasting stars shine through, with attractive beams."
"If the black man is feeble and not important to the existing races, not on a parity with the best race, the black man must serve,and be exterminated. But if the black man carries in his bosom an indispensable element of a new and coming civilization; for the sake of that element, no wrong nor strength nor circumstance can hurt him: he will survive and play his part. So now, the arrival in the world of such men as Toussaint, and the Haytian heroes, or of the leaders of their race in Barbadoes and Jamaica, outweighs in good omen all the English and American humanity."
"Men hear gladly of the power of blood or race. Every body likes to know that his advantages cannot be attributed to air, soil, sea, or to local wealth, as mines and quarries, nor to laws and traditions, nor to fortune, but to superior brain, as it makes the praise more personal to him."
"I know that I will always be expected to have extra insight into black texts--especially texts by black women. A working-class Jewish woman from Brooklyn could become an expert on Shakespeare or Baudelaire, my students seemed to believe, if she mastered the language, the texts, and the critical literature. But they would not grant that a middle-class white man could ever be a trusted authority on Toni Morrison."
"No race has the last word on culture and on civilization. You do not know what the black man is capable of; you do not know what he is thinking and therefore you do not know what the oppressed and suppressed Negro, by virtue of his condition and circumstance, may give to the world as a surprise."