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‘First they ignore you… then you win’ quote not by Gandhi

“First, they will ignore you, then they will laugh at you, then they will fight you and then you win” is a quote often shared online and attributed to Mohandas Gandhi, leader of India’s movement against British colonialism in the 1930s and 1940s.

It was also posted on Facebook by a Kenyan senator and a senior official in the deputy president’s office, attributed to Gandhi. A Kenyan journalist posted the quote too. 

These Kenyans are not alone. On 29 February 2016 US president, Donald Trump, tweeted the “Gandhi” quote. It was retweeted 4,600 times and liked by 10,200 people.

Gandhi is often known as “Mahatma”, an honorific first given to him in 1914, when he was living in South Africa.

Did Gandhi say these words? We checked.



Quote traced to trade union leader


Africa Check turned to the Mind of Mahatma Gandhi, the “encyclopedia of Gandhi’s thoughts”, and could not find the quote. 

The closest quote we could find is from a convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America held on 15 May 1918 in Baltimore in the US. 

“First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. Then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you,” Nicholas Klein, a US labour activist, told the trade union convention.

Other fact-checkers, such as Snopes, Politifact and news agency the Associated Press, have reviewed the claim and all concluded it is most likely that Klein originally said the quote. 

The director of the MK Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence in the US told the Associated Press that the quote was not by Gandhi. – Grace Gichuhi




 

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