Frederick Douglass? Apocryphal?
Question for Quote Investigator: Whenever a person is being evaluated it is necessary to consider the adversities that have impeded their progress. One should measure the heights achieved, but one should also consider the original challenging depths experienced by an individual. The famous orator Frederick Douglass said something like this. Would you please help me to find a citation?
Reply from Quote Investigator: On May 30, 1882 Frederick Douglass delivered an address at Decoration Day in Rochester, New York. The “Rochester Daily Union and Advertiser” newspaper published a transcript of the speech which included the following remarks. Boldface added to excepts by QI:1882 May 30, Rochester Daily Union and Advertiser, Decoration Day: Address of Frederick Douglass at Franklin Square, Quote Page 3, Column 8, Rochester New York. (Old Fulton accessed fultonhistory_com … Continue reading
Unquestionably the condition of the freedmen is not what it ought to be, but the cause of their affliction is not to be found in their present freedom, but in their former slavery. It does not belong to the present, but to the past. They were emancipated under unfavorable conditions. They were literally turned loose, hungry and naked, to the open sky . . .
Those who now carp at their destitution, and speak of them with contempt should judge them leniently, and measure their progress, not from the heights to which they may in time attain, but from the depths from which they have come.
Additional details and citations are available in the article on the Medium platform which is located here.
Image Notes: Picture of mountainous terrain in Munkebu, Norway from Guillaume Briard at Unsplash. The image has been cropped.
Acknowledgements: Great thanks to researcher Lisa Najavits and the Boston University (BU) library system. The version of this saying presented in the 1993 and 2006 citations appears on many webpages without a supporting citation. Najavits wished to obtain a solid citation; hence, she contacted the BU library system where a librarian was able to successfully trace a different version to the May 30, 1882 Decoration Day speech by Frederick Douglass. Najavits contacted QI and suggested that an article about this expression would be a valuable addition to the website, and QI concurred.