'Every fair-minded man and woman and child in America ought to seize these shameful facts as a reason to make up their minds on the negro question. They ought to say that every policeman in New York or elsewhere, who dared to say he was better than his colored fellow-citizen, was unfit to wear the uniform of an American city; and that every school-girl who was so un-Christian and so unladylike as to ostracize a fellow-student because her skin was dark, was utterly unworthy of a diploma from the public schools.'
- O'Reilly attacking instances of racism in the public schools and the police, 1886.
'With his pen, John Boyle O’Reilly sent through the columns of a newspaper that he edited in this city words in our behalf that were Christian, and anathemas that were just. Not only that, but he went on to the platform, and, in bold and defiant language, he denounced the murderers of our people, and advised us to strike the tyrants back. It was a time when the cloud was most heavy, and more threatening than at any other period since reconstruction. At that time our Wendell Phillips was stricken by the hand of death, and then some doubted that they would be ever be able to see a clear sky. But in the midst of all the gloom we could hear Mr. O’Reilly declaring his determination to stand by the colored American in all contests where his rights were at stake.'
- Speech by Edwin G. Walker following O'Reilly's death in 1890