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20 Quotes From Inspiring Human Rights Leaders

As long as there has been injustice, there have been people willing to fight against it, whether with sweeping charters, culture-defining protests, or wise words that resonate with millions and inspire action.

These 17 quotes come from some of history’s most staunch defenders and advocates of inalienable rights — not just for any single group but for the whole human race. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” — and these influential voices are among those who have helped to bend it.

The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.
— Ida B. Wells

Darkness cannot overcome darkness, only light can do that. Violence can never overcome violence, only peace can do that. Hate can never overcome hate, only love can do that.
— John Lewis

To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.
— Nelson Mandela

We draw our strength from the very despair in which we have been forced to live. We shall endure.
— Cesar Chavez

It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.
— Eleanor Roosevelt

I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.
— Fannie Lou Hamer, women’s rights and civil rights activist

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
— Martin Luther King Jr.

Peace can only last where human rights are respected, where the people are fed, and where individuals and nations are free.
— Dalai Lama

You cannot kill the truth. You cannot kill justice. You cannot kill what we are fighting for.
— Jean Dominique, journalist and human rights advocate

One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.
— Malala Yousafzai

Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights. Get up, stand up, don't give up the fight.
— Bob Marley

I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail, so what? We’ve been in jail for 400 years.
— Muhammad Ali

Those who say it can’t be done are usually interrupted by others doing it.
— James Baldwin

If there is no struggle, there is no progress.
— Frederick Douglass

The greatness of humanity is not in being human, but in being humane.
— Mahatma Gandhi

You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.
— Malcolm X

The only tired I was, was tired of giving in.
— Rosa Parks

My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.
— Desmond Tutu

I have tasted freedom. I will not give up that which I have tasted.
— Harvey Milk

Hope is telling the truth. Hope is taking action. And hope always comes from the people.
— Greta Thunberg

Photo credit: Bettmann via Getty Images

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About the Author
Darren Orf
Darren lives in Portland, Oregon, has two cats, and writes about science, technology, nature, and history.
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