These Quotes From Notable Black People Throughout History Will Inspire You All Year Long

shirley chisholm, oprah, ida b wells, michelle obama, rosa parks
120 Black History Month Quotes You Need To KnowHearst Owned

The contributions of Black people to American society and the world should be celebrated every day of the year. But each February, Black History Month presents an unique opportunity to dedicate time to mindfully appreciate the global impact of Black indivduals and communities.

For decades the strife of Black people, particularly in the United States, has been highlighted in history textbooks, on the news, and in pop culture. From the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s to the Black Lives Matter movement of today, it can feel overwhelming to focus on all of the hardships.

But Blackness is not all about struggle. It’s about light, perseverance, and joy.

These quotes by notable Black people—from celebrated authors to award-winning actors to renowned public figures—reflect their determination, achievements, wisdom, and the mantras they used or still use to push on. They'll challenge you to do better, even when it seems like the world is against you. For some, the obstacles were enormous. But nevertheless, they persevered.

So, use these quotes to help challenge your thinking and motivate you to overcome whatever obstacles may come your way. From the mantras Muhammad Ali lived by to Michelle Obama's thoughts on what it means to fail, ahead find 120 quotes you can use to reflect on this February, and every other month of the year.

i have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear knowing what must be done does away with fear —rosa parks
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1. “I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; Knowing what must be done does away with fear.” —Rosa Parks

2. “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” —Harriet Tubman

3. “Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.” —Booker T. Washington

4. “Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” —Barack Obama

5. “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” —Muhammad Ali

6. “Won’t it be wonderful when Black history and Native American history and Jewish history and all of U.S. history is taught from one book. Just U.S. history.” —Maya Angelou

7. “Did you know that the human voice is the only pure instrument? That it has notes no other instrument has? It’s like being between the keys of a piano.” —Nina Simone

8. “Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations.” —Dr. Mae Jemison

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

10. “For I am my mother’s daughter, and the drums of Africa still beat in my heart.” —Mary McLeod Bethune

11. “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” —Michael Jordan

12. “What’s the world for if you can’t make it up the way you want it?”—Toni Morrison

“one of the hardest things in life to learn are which bridges to cross and which bridges to burn”—oprah winfrey
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13. “One of the hardest things in life to learn are which bridges to cross and which bridges to burn.” —Oprah Winfrey

14. “The soul that is within me no man can degrade.” —Frederick Douglass

15. “Just don’t give up what you’re trying to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.” —Ella Fitzgerald

16. “I am America. I am the part you won’t recognize. But get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me.” —Muhammad Ali

17. “The one thing I feel is lacking in Hollywood today is an understanding of the beauty, the power, the sexuality, the uniqueness, the humor of being a regular Black woman.” —Viola Davis

18. “Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.” —Muhammad Ali

19. “It was when I realized I needed to stop trying to be somebody else and be myself, I actually started to own, accept, and love what I had.” —Tracee Ellis Ross

20. “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” —Martin Luther King, Jr.

21. “Your willingness to look at your darkness is what empowers you to change.” —Iyanla Vanzant

22. “True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.” —Martin Luther King Jr.

23. “When we’re talking about diversity, it’s not a box to check. It is a reality that should be deeply felt and held and valued by all of us.” —Ava DuVernay

24. “I always believed that when you follow your heart or your gut, when you really follow the things that feel great to you, you can never lose, because settling is the worst feeling in the world.” —Rihanna

25. “Challenges are gifts that force us to search for a new center of gravity. Don’t fight them. Just find a new way to stand.” —Oprah Winfrey

26. “Belief in oneself and knowing who you are—I mean, that’s the foundation for everything great.” —Jay-Z

27. “Go to work in the morn of a new creation…until you have…reached the height of self-progress, and from that pinnacle bestow upon the world a civilization of your own.” —Marcus Garvey

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28. “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” —Shirley Chisholm

29. “It’s not the load that breaks you down; it’s the way you carry it.” —Lena Horne

30. “There have been so many people who have said to me, ‘You can’t do that,’ but I’ve had an innate belief that they were wrong. Be unwavering and relentless in your approach.” —Halle Berry

31. “We should emphasize not Negro History, but the Negro in history. What we need is not a history of selected races or nations, but the history of the world void of national bias, race hate, and religious prejudice.” —Carter Woodson

32. “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” —Nelson Mandela

33. “The thing about Black history is that the truth is so much more complex than anything you could make up.” —Henry Louis Gates

34. “Life has two rules: number 1, never quit! Number 2, always remember rule number one.” —Duke Ellington

35. “You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas.” —Shirley Chisholm

36. “At the end of the day, it’s not about what you have or even what you’ve accomplished. It’s about what you’ve done with those accomplishments. It’s about who you’ve lifted up, who you’ve made better. It’s about what you’ve given back.” —Denzel Washington

37. “We will all, at some point, encounter hurdles to gaining access and entry, moving up and conquering self-doubt; but on the other side is the capacity to own opportunity and tell our own story.” —Stacey Abrams

38. “We’re bosses, and that’s what I consider feminism: female hustlers.” —Cardi B

39. “Success? I don’t know what that word means. I’m happy. But success, that goes back to what in somebody’s eyes success means. For me, success is inner peace. That’s a good day for me.” —Denzel Washington

40. “Somebody once said we never know what is enough until we know what’s more than enough.” —Billie Holiday

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

42. “If you prioritize yourself, you are going to save yourself.” —Gabrielle Union

“the way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them”—ida b wells
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43. “The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.” —Ida B. Wells

44. “If you have a chance to accomplish something that will make things better for people coming behind you, and you don’t do that, you are wasting your time on this earth.” —Roberto Clemente

45. “I have standards I don’t plan on lowering for anybody, including myself.” —Zendaya

46. “It’s okay to fall down. Get up, look sickening, and make them eat it!” —RuPaul

47. “Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It’s beyond me.” —Zora Neale Hurston

48. “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” —Frederick Douglass

49. “Women make up more than half of the world’s population and potential. So it is neither just nor practical for their voices, for our voices, to go unheard at the highest levels of decision-making.” —Meghan Markle

50. “Embrace what makes you unique, even if it makes others uncomfortable. I didn’t have to become perfect because I’ve learned throughout my journey that perfection is the enemy of greatness.” —Janelle Monae

51. “You are not and yet you are: your thoughts, your deeds, above all your dreams still live.” —W.E.B. Du Bois

52. “Your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.” —Michelle Obama

53. “I feel safe in the midst of my enemies, for the truth is all powerful and will prevail.” —Sojourner Truth

54. “It’s important for young people to know that they are made the way they are made and they’re beautiful and that’s how they’re supposed to be.” —Raven Symone

55. “Whatever we believe about ourselves and our ability comes true for us.” —Susan L. Taylor

56. “I realized that beauty was not a thing that I could acquire or consume, it was something I just had to be.” —Lupita Nyong’o

57. “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” —James Baldwin

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Hearst Owned

58. “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” —Alice Walker

59. “The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.” ―Barack Obama

60. “I use my platform for more than just myself. Art is a reflection of human emotions. To neglect the political is to neglect what essentially is your job of storytelling. I would rather be known for the content of my character than for the project that I did.”—Zendaya

61. “It is so liberating to really know what I want, what truly makes me happy, what I will not tolerate. I have learned that it is no one else’s job to take care of me but me.” —Beyoncé

62. “Hate is too great a burden to bear. It injures the hater more than it injures the hated.” —Coretta Scott King

63. “When you put love out in the world it travels, and it can touch people and reach people in ways that we never even expected.” —Laverne Cox

64. “I love my body, and I would never change anything about it. I’m not asking you to like my body. I’m just asking you to let me be me.” —Serena Williams

65. “Dreams are lovely but they are just dreams. Fleeting, ephemeral, pretty. But dreams do not come true just because you dream them. It’s hard work that makes things happen. It’s hard work that creates change.” —Shonda Rhimes

66. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” —Martin Luther King, Jr.

67. “There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.” —Nelson Mandela

68. “Don’t try to lessen yourself for the world; let the world catch up to you.” —Beyoncé

69. “I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me… all I ask is that you respect me as a human being.” —Jackie Robinson

70. “How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these. —George Washington Carver

71. “You should never discount anything. I think so many of us tend to be comfortable with what we’re not and complacent with what we’re not. You really don’t have to be. I didn’t solve world peace or anything — it’s not like that. But something that felt so small and intangible ended up being tangible. And that’s just the coolest thing in the world.” —Issa Rae

“instead of letting your hardships and failures discourage or exhaust you, let them inspire you let them make you even hungrier to succeed” —michelle obama
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72. “Instead of letting your hardships and failures discourage or exhaust you, let them inspire you. Let them make you even hungrier to succeed.” —Michelle Obama

73. “If we can’t look at the good, bad, and ugly of who we are, we are never going to progress as people— ever.” —Rosie Perez

74. “Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave. I rise. I rise. I rise.” —Maya Angelou

75. “Black people have always been America’s wilderness in search of a promised land.” —Cornel West

76. “Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly.”—Langston Hughes

77. “I don’t have any time to stay up all night worrying about what someone who doesn’t love me has to say about me.” —Viola Davis

78. “Identity is a prison you can never escape, but the way to redeem your past is not to run from it, but to try to understand it, and use it as a foundation to grow.” —Jay-Z

79. “We all require and want respect, man or woman, black or white. It’s our basic human right.” —Aretha Franklin

80. “Never, ever, let them see you sweat, negra. Fight until you can’t breathe, and if you have to forfeit, you forfeit smiling, make them think you let them win.”―Elizabeth Acevedo

81. “No hay que llorar/ Que la vida es un carnaval.” (There’s no need to cry. Life is a carnival.) —Celia Cruz

82. “I am not going to die; I’m going home like a shooting star.” —Sojourner Truth

83. “I really don’t think life is about the I-could-have-beens. Life is only about the I-tried-to-do. I don’t mind the failure, but I can’t imagine that I’d forgive myself if I didn’t try.” —Nikki Giovanni

84. “If you have no confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life.” —Marcus Garvey

85. “Don’t settle for average. Bring your best to the moment. Then, whether it fails or succeeds, at least you know you gave all you had. We need to live the best that’s in us.” —Angela Bassett

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

87. “I was built this way for a reason, so I’m going to use it.” —Simone Biles

88. “Living simply makes loving simple.” —bell hooks

89. “You've got to learn to leave the table when love's no longer being served.” —Nina Simone

90. “Even if it makes others uncomfortable, I will love who I am.” —Janelle Monae

91. “Be passionate and move forward with gusto every single hour of every single day until you reach your goal.” —Ava DuVernay

92. “You are your best thing.” —Toni Morrison

93. “You are on the eve of a complete victory. You can’t go wrong. The world is behind you.” —Josephine Baker

94. “Don’t wait around for other people to be happy for you. Any happiness you get you’ve got to make yourself.” —Alice Walker

95. “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” ―Maya Angelou

96. “Sometimes, what you're looking for is already there.” —Aretha Franklin

97. “Once we recognize what it is we are feeling, once we recognize we can feel deeply, love deeply, can feel joy, then we will demand that all parts of our lives produce that kind of joy.” —Audre Lorde

98. “I thrive on obstacles. If I’m told that it can’t be done, then I push harder.” —Issa Rae

99. “We must reject not only the stereotypes that others hold of us, but also the stereotypes that we hold of ourselves.” —Shirley Chisholm

100. “I believe that telling our stories, first to ourselves and then to one another and the world, is a revolutionary act. It is an act that can be met with hostility, exclusion, and violence. It can also lead to love, understanding, transcendence, and community.” —Janet Mock

101. “If you have no road map, you have to create your own.”Jacqueline Woodson

102. “Those who say it can't be done are usually interrupted by others doing it.”James Baldwin

103. “Change is made of choices, and choices are made of character.” —Amanda Gorman

104. “If you write about race in 1850, you end up talking about race today because in many ways, so little has changed.” —Colton Whitehead

105. “Grab the broom of anger and drive off the beast of fear.” —Zora Neale Hurston

106. “They made us into a race. We made ourselves into a people.” —Ta-Nehisi Coates

107. “The cost of liberty is less than the price of repression.” —W.E.B. Du Bois

108. “Freedom and justice cannot be parceled out in pieces to suit political convenience. I don’t believe you can stand for freedom for one group of people and deny it to others.” —Coretta Scott King

109. “We must never forget that Black History is American History. The achievements of African Americans have contributed to our nation's greatness.” —Yvette Clarke

110. “An artist must be free to choose what he does, certainly, but he must also never be afraid to do what he might choose.” —Langston Hughes

111. “Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America.” —John Lewis

112. “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” —Audre Lorde

113. “History has shown us that courage can be contagious, and hope can take on a life of its own.” —Michelle Obama

114. “If you know whence you came, there is really no limit to where you can go.” —James Baldwin

115. “I had no idea that history was being made. I was just tired of giving up.” —Rosa Parks

116. “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.” —Angela Davis

117. “Every time you state what you want or believe, you're the first to hear it. It's a message to both you and others about what you think is possible. Don't put a ceiling on yourself.” —Oprah Winfrey

118. “A people without the knowledge of their past history is like a tree without roots.” —Marcus Garvey

119. “I am lucky that whatever fear I have inside me, my desire to win is always stronger.” —Serena Williams

120.I am a feminist, and what that means to me is much the same as the meaning of the fact that I am Black; it means that I must undertake to love myself and to respect myself as though my very life depends upon self-love and self-respect.—June Jordan

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