Category Archives: Quotes

As every second post on this site is a quote. You’ll find a deep and broad variety of quotes under this category, which overlap with several other tags and categories. Many of the quotes are larded with links for deeper reading on the subject of the quote, or connections between the subject of the quotes and other people, things, or ideas. See the Taxonomies page for more about this category.

Frederick Douglass on Patriotism

“No, I make no pretension to patriotism. So long as my voice can be heard on this or the other side of the Atlantic, I will hold up America to the lightning scorn of moral indignation. In doing this, I shall feel myself discharging the duty of a true patriot; for he is a lover of this country who rebukes and does not excuse its sins.”

Frederick Douglass

Speech at Market Hall, New York, N.Y., 22 Oct. 1847

Excerpted from: Schapiro, Fred, ed. The Yale Book of Quotations. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.

African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME Church)

“African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME Church): African-American Methodist denomination, formally organized in 1816. It originated with a group of black Philadelphians who withdrew in 1787 from St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church because of racial discrimination and built Bethel African Methodist Church. In 1799 Richard Allen became minister of Bethel, and in 1816 he was consecrated bishop of the newly organized African Methodist Episcopal Church. Limited at first to the Northern states, the church spread rapidly in the South after the Civil War. It founded many colleges and seminaries, notably Wilberforce University (1856) in Ohio. Today it has 3,600 churches and more than a million members worldwide.”

Excerpted/Adapted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.

The Great Migration in American Culture, Politics, and Society

Toni Morrison’s parents migrated from Alabama to Lorraine, Ohio. Diana Ross’s mother migrated from Bessemer, Alabama to Detroit, her father from Bluefield, West Virginia. Aretha Franklin’s father migrated from Mississippi to Detroit. Jesse Owens’s parents migrated from Oakville, Alabama, to Cleveland when he was nine. Joe Louis’s mother migrated with him from Lafayette, Alabama to Detroit. Jackie Robinson’s family migrated from Cairo, Georgia, to Pasadena, California. Bill Cosby’s father migrated from Schuyler, Virginia to Philadelphia, where Cosby was born. Nat King Cole, as a young boy, migrated with his family from Montgomery, Alabama to Chicago. Condoleeza Rice’s family migrated from Birmingham, Alabama to Denver, Colorado, when she was twelve. Thelonious Monk’s parents brought him from Rocky Mount, North Carolina, to Harlem when he was five. Berry Gordy’s parents migrated from rural Georgia to Detroit, where Gordy was born. Oprah Winfrey’s mother migrated from Koscisusko, Mississippi, to Milwaukee, where Winfrey went to live as a young girl. Mae Jemison’s parents migrated from Decatur, Alabama, to Chicago when she was three years old. Romare Bearden’s parents carried him from Charlotte, North Carolina, to New York City. Jimi Hendrix’s maternal grandparents migrated from Virginia to Seattle. Michael Jackson’s mother was taken as a toddler from Barbour County by her parents to East Chicago, Indiana; his father migrated as a young man from Fountain Hill, Arkansas, to Chicago, just west of Gary, Indiana, where all the Jackson children were born. Prince’s father migrated from Louisiana to Minneapolis. Sean “P. Diddy” Combs’s grandmother migrated from Hollyhill, South Carolina, to Harlem. Whitney Houston’s grandparents migrated from Georgia to Newark, New Jersey. The family of Mary J. Blige migrated from Savannah, Georgia, to Yonkers, New York. Queen Latifah’s grandfather migrated from Birmingham, Alabama, to Brooklyn. August Wilson’s mother migrated from North Carolina to Pittsburgh, following her own mother, who, as the playwright told it, walked most of the way.”

Excerpted/Adapted from: Wilkerson, Isabel. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration. New York: Vintage, 2011.

R.D. Laing on Insanity

“Insanity: a perfectly rational adjustment to the insane world.”

R.D. Laing

Excerpted from: Winokur, Jon, ed. The Big Curmudgeon. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal, 2007.

Ottava Rima

“Ottava Rima: In prosody a stanza of eight lines rhyming a-b-a-b-a-b-c-c. The form, which arose in Italy in the 14th century, was used by Boccaccio, Tasso, Ariosto, and many other Italian poets. In English is is usually written in iambic pentameters. It was used, for example, by Keats in ‘Isabella‘ (1820); in ‘Don Juan,’ Byron strikes the mock-heroic, almost burlesque note that has come to be associated with the form.”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

Rotten Reviews: Omensetter’s Luck

“…Gass has not a particle of the savoir-faire of Faulkner. The pages ramble on, almost devoid of dialogue. This first novel is not for the reader longing for a good story narrative.”

Library Journal

Excerpted from: Barnard, Andre, and Bill Henderson, eds. Pushcart’s Complete Rotten Reviews and Rejections. Wainscott, NY: Pushcart Press, 1998.   

Elizabeth Bibesco on Irony

“Irony is the hygiene of the mind.”

Elizabeth Bibesco

Excerpted from: Winokur, Jon, ed. The Big Curmudgeon. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal, 2007.


“Matiere: (Fr., material) In painting, the canvas and paint; in sculpture, the substance to be carved or molded.”

Excerpted from: Diamond, David G. The Bulfinch Pocket Dictionary of Art Terms. Boston: Little Brown, 1992.

The Doubter’s Companion: Ad Hominem

Ad Hominem: The obverse of hero worship. Both indicate an unwillingness to deal with content.

Public figures have complained for decades about the growing tendency to judge them by violent personal attacks, often aimed at their private lives. But as public actors have chosen to assume Heroic guises—whether majestic, saintlike, martyred, romantic or touching—so those they attempt to seduce have reacted with personalized integral vilification.

There is nothing new about such ad hominem attacks. They were widely used for political purposes in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. If public figures paid a little more attention to history, they would know that their predecessors led a much rougher life. Today they are protected by concentrated media ownership, the obsession of the large professional elites with respectable public behavior and, in most countries, overly strict libel laws. Given that ours is a management-oriented society, we give far too much importance to the smoothness of public discourse and fear serious open verbal conflict.

Contemporary ad hominem resembles that of an earlier period—the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This was a society of courtiers constantly in pursuit of meaningless power. Court life was measured by personal details—orgasms, medals, gloves, cleavages, and titles. Ad hominem fed the endless appetite for gossip which filled the salons and occupied the days of those caught up in the complex structures of the state. These were powerless people living by irrelevant criticisms in the shadow of false human gods—the absolute monarchs. That such detached ad hominem attacks have returned with a vengeance in the late twentieth century suggests that we have also returned to the courtier-based society of the great palaces, which have been transformed into the great professions and the great organizations of the public and private sector.

Excerpted from: Saul, John Ralston. The Doubter’s Companion. New York: The Free Press, 1994.

Norman Mailer on Newspapers

“Once a newspaper touches a story, the facts are lost forever, even to the protagonists.”

Norman Mailer

Excerpted from: Winokur, Jon, ed. The Big Curmudgeon. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal, 2007.