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Thursday, February 2, 2017

Frederick Douglass and the Right of Migration

The right of migration belongs to no particular race, but belongs alike to all and to all alike.


There are such things in the world as human rights. They rest upon no conventional foundation, but are external, universal, and indestructible. Among these, is the right of locomotion; the right of migration; the right which belongs to no particular race, but belongs alike to all and to all alike. It is the right you assert by staying here, and your fathers asserted by coming here. It is this great right that I assert for the Chinese and Japanese, and for all other varieties of men equally with yourselves, now and forever. I know of no rights of race superior to the rights of humanity, and when there is a supposed conflict between human and national rights, it is safe to go to the side of humanity. I have great respect for the blue eyed and light haired races of America. They are a mighty people. In any struggle for the good things of this world they need have no fear. They have no need to doubt that they will get their full share.

But I reject the arrogant and scornful theory by which they would limit migratory rights, or any other essential human rights to themselves, and which would make them the owners of this great continent to the exclusion of all other races of men.


Special thanks to Cafe Hayek. This is excerpted from a speech Douglass gave in Boston in 1869 challenging the opposition of most people, including most blacks, to Chinese immigration. You can read the entire speech here.


  • Frederick Douglass was an African-American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman.