Back to Africa Check

‘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


Republish our content for free

We believe that everyone needs the facts.

You can republish the text of this article free of charge, both online and in print. However, we ask that you pay attention to these simple guidelines. In a nutshell:

1. Do not include images, as in most cases we do not own the copyright.

2. Please do not edit the article.

3. Make sure you credit "Africa Check" in the byline and don't forget to mention that the article was originally published on

For publishers: what to do if your post is rated false

A fact-checker has rated your Facebook or Instagram post as “false”, “altered”, “partly false” or “missing context”. This could have serious consequences. What do you do?

Click on our guide for the steps you should follow.

Publishers guide

Africa Check teams up with Facebook

Africa Check is a partner in Meta's third-party fact-checking programme to help stop the spread of false information on social media.

The content we rate as “false” will be downgraded on Facebook and Instagram. This means fewer people will see it.

You can also help identify false information on Facebook. This guide explains how.

Add new comment

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
limit: 600 characters

Want to keep reading our fact-checks?

We will never charge you for verified, reliable information. Help us keep it that way by supporting our work.

Become a newsletter subscriber

Support independent fact-checking in Africa.