Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Melvin Tolson, fully Melvin Beaunorus Tolson

American Modernist Poet, Educator, Columnist and Politician

"Since we live in a changing universe, why do men oppose change?... If a rock is in the way, the root of a tree will change its direction. The dumbest animals try to adapt themselves to changed conditions. Even a rat will change its tactics to get a piece of cheese."

"Old men dream dreams; young men see visions."

"The white man’s civilization with its inhuman economic competition and rugged individualism has produced millions of physical and mental wrecks. It has produced enough vices to fill Dante’s hell. Nine-tenths of the people who reach forty are suffering from shattered nerves."

"It required the Great Depression to open the eyes of the American people to the economic, cultural, social, political, and spiritual values inherent in a great democracy. For this I am thankful. As a distinctly finite being, man learns only through tragic experiences. Progress and Pain are Siamese twins."

"The question is -- Who will get to heaven first the man who talks or the man who acts?"

"A civilization is always judged in its decline."

"Anybody know who Willie Lynch was? Anybody? Raise your hand. No one? He was a vicious slave owner in the West Indies. The slave-masters in the colony of Virginia were having trouble controlling their slaves, so they sent for Mr. Lynch to teach them his methods. The word lynching came from his last name. His methods were very simple, but they were diabolical. Keep the slave physically strong but psychologically weak and dependent on the slave master. Keep the body, take the mind."

"Out of abysses of illiteracy, through labyrinths of lies, across wastelands of disease... advance. Out of dead-ends of poverty,through wilderness of superstition, across barricades of Jim Crowism... advance."

"My little walnut-hued mother . . . was a descendant from antebellum fugitives who hid themselves on the islands in the Mark Twain country and in the glooms of the Ozarks, from which they raided at midnight the slave plantations along the Missouri and the Mississippi. Out of the melting-pot of this clan came gun-toting preachers and hallelujahing badmen whose legends grew whiskers in the dead yellow hills."

"We are mere journeymen, planting seeds for someone else to harvest."

"It's better to have a society where all of us have something than to have one in which a few of us have all."

"When the exceptional historian comes along, you have a poet."