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Inspirational Black History Month quotes to celebrate change and humanity. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Black History Month (also known as African-American History Month), is an annual celebration that began as a way of remembering important figures and events in the history of African diaspora.

The first celebration took place at Kent State in 1970. Black History Month is currently celebrated in February in the United States and Canada, while in places like the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Ireland, it is observed in the month of October.

BHM is a time to commemorate African American trailblazers and their remarkable legacies, a time to celebrate amazing people that truly believed in freedom, humanity, and who did everything in their power to make a positive change.

In honor of Black History Month, we’ve rounded up a list of inspirational quotes from civil rights icons and abolitionists including Martin Luther King Jr., Frederick Douglass, Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman. Below, you’ll also find wise words and provoking ideas from other inspiring leaders and modern figures.

Here are 175 Black History Month quotes that celebrate freedom, change and humanity:

Black History Month quotes

There are so many amazing people along the history that made huge efforts in order to end slavery, to earn rights and freedom for themselves and others. Many atrocities happened in the past, but Black History Month is about celebrating those who had the courage to fight against injustice and make this world a better and safer place.

Here are our top Black History Month quotes from famous figures and speeches that you should know:

We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers. Our abundance has brought us neither peace of mind nor serenity of spirit.

MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.

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

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

It’s important for us to also understand that the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’ simply refers to the notion that there’s a specific vulnerability for African Americans that needs to be addressed. It’s not meant to suggest that other lives don’t matter. It’s to suggest that other folks aren’t experiencing this particular vulnerability.

BARACK OBAMA

I swear to the Lord I still can’t see why democracy means everybody but me.

LANGSTON HUGHES

During Black History Month, I’m reminded yet again of the ways that the struggle for civil rights is interwoven with the struggle for workers’ rights.

TOM PEREZ

Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.

MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.

If the only time you think of me as a scientist is during Black History Month, then I must not be doing my job as a scientist.

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON

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

Racism isn’t born, folks, it’s taught.  I have a two-year-old son. You know what he hates?  Naps! End of list.

DENNIS LEARY

Today we know with certainty that segregation is dead.  The only question remaining is how costly will be the funeral.

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.

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

Racism is man’s gravest threat to man – the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason.

ABRAHAM JOSHUA HESCHEL

The majority of the Negroes who took part in the year-long boycott of Montgomery’s buses were poor and untutored; but they understood the essence of the Montgomery movement; one elderly woman summed it up for the rest.  When asked after several weeks of walking whether she was tired, she answered: ‘My feet is tired, but my soul is at rest.

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.

You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.

MALCOLM X

The thing about black history is that the truth is so much more complex than anything you could make up.

HENRY LOUIS GATES

There comes a time when people get tired of being plunged into the abyss of exploitation and nagging injustice.

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.

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

Black History Month must be more than just a month of remembrance; it should be a tribute to our history and reminder of the work that lies in the months and years ahead.

MARTY MEEHAN

Black history isn’t a separate history. This is all of our history, this is American history, and we need to understand that. It has such an impact on kids and their values and how they view black people.

KARYN PARSONS

We have a wonderful history behind us…and it is going to inspire us to greater achievements.

CARTER G. WOODSON

Freedom is not something that one people can bestow on another as a gift. Thy claim it as their own and none can keep it from them.

KWAME NKRUMAH

True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.

ARTHUR ASHE

Black people have always been America’s wilderness in search of a promised land.

CORNEL WEST

For Africa to me… is more than a glamorous fact. It is a historical truth. No man can know where he is going unless he knows exactly where he has been and exactly how he arrived at his present place.

MAYA ANGELOU

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

Friendly reminder that you don’t have to say the ‘n word’ to be racist. That’s not the sole requirement. Asking people to prove racism is another tool the oppressor uses to marginalize and discredit us.

LIZZO

The very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being.

TONI MORRISON

The beauty of anti-racism is that you don’t have to pretend to be free of racism to be anti-racist. Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself. And it’s the only way forward.

IJOEMA OLUO

We must never forget that Black History is American History. The achievements of African Americans have contributed to our nation’s greatness.

YVETTE CLARKE

If we want to get to the place where all lives matter, then we have to make sure that black lives matter too.

ALICIA GARZA

True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.

MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.

Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.

JAMES BALDWIN

Inspirational Black History Month quotes

There is probably nothing more inspiring than hoping for a better life and striving for success regardless of circumstances. The following quotes belong to people who have and continue to inspire and encourage millions around the world.

Check out our top inspirational Black History Month quotes about dreams, growth and strength:

Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly.

LANGSTON HUGHES

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

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

I can accept failure. Everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.

MICHAEL JORDAN

Hold on to your dreams of a better life and stay committed to striving to realize it.

EARL G. GRAVES, SR.

Diversity is not about how we differ. Diversity is about embracing one another’s uniqueness.

OLA JOSEPH

Have a vision of excellence, a dream of success, and work like hell.

DR. SAMUEL DUBOIS COOK

If you have no confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life.

MARCUS GARVEY

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

You look at someone like Gandhi, and he glowed. Martin Luther King glowed. Muhammad Ali glows. I think that’s from being bright all the time, and trying to be brighter.

JAY-Z

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. 

MUHAMMAD ALI

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

The impatient idealist says: ‘Give me a place to stand and I shall move the earth.’ But such a place does not exist. We all have to stand on the earth itself and go with her at her pace.

CHINUA ACHEBE

Life has two rules: Number 1 – never quit! Number 2 – always remember rule number one.

DUKE ELLINGTON

A man without knowledge of himself and his heritage is like a tree without roots.

DICK GREGORY

If you know whence you came, there is really no limit to where you can go.

JAMES BALDWIN

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

The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.

ALICE WALKER

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

You are where you are today because you stand on somebody’s shoulders. And wherever you are heading, you cannot get there by yourself.

VERNON JORDAN

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

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

The battles that count aren’t the ones for gold medals. The struggles within yourself—the invisible, inevitable battles inside all of us—that’s where it’s at.

JESSE OWENS

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

If you prioritize yourself, you are going to save yourself.

GABRIELLE UNION

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

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

Morgan Freeman Black History Month quotes

Morgan Freeman stirred a lot of controversy back in 2005 when he called the Black History Month “ridiculous”. The idea behind his statement was that black people don’t need a separate history celebration since all of it is part of American History. The Oscar-winning actor thinks that racism can end when we stop talking about it — as long as we’re pointing out something, we are still stigmatizing, even if our intentions are good.

Here are Morgan Freeman’s Black History Month quotes:

You’re going to relegate my history to a month? What do you do with yours?

MORGAN FREEMAN

I don’t want a Black History Month. Black history is American history.

MORGAN FREEMAN

Stop talking about it. I’m going to stop calling you a white man, and I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man.

MORGAN FREEMAN

Dr. Martin Luther King is not a black hero. He is an American hero.

MORGAN FREEMAN

Let me tell you what justice is. Justice is the law. And that man’s feeble attempt to lay down the principles of decency.

MORGAN FREEMAN

As long as you feel like a victim, you are one.

MORGAN FREEMAN

Black History Month quotes for students

Students need to learn about their history in order to know how to approach current situations, especially when it comes to racism. They need to know that in spite of everything that has happened in the past, things can be changed for the better. Afro-American students can have the same opportunities and dream for a brighter future, just like everyone else.

Here’s our list of Black History Month quotes for students that will empower you:

Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.

BARACK OBAMA

Ours is not the struggle of one day, one week, or one year. Ours is not the struggle of one judicial appointment or presidential term. Ours is the struggle of a lifetime, or maybe even many lifetimes, and each one of us in every generation must do our part.

JOHN LEWIS

Anyone who claims to be a leader must speak like a leader. That means speaking with integrity and truth.

KAMALA HARRIS

He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.

MUHAMMAD ALI

Your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.

MICHELLE OBAMA

What’s in front of you is a whole world of experiences beyond your imagination. Put yourself, and your growth, and your development first.

PHYLICIA RASHAD

Use your skills, your knowledge, your instincts to serve – to go change the world in the way that only you can.

ROBERT F. SMITH

Whatever we believe about ourselves and our ability comes true for us.

SUSAN L. TAYLOR

We all have dreams. In order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline and effort.

JESSE OWENS

Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.

MAYA ANGELOU

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

What’s the world for if you can’t make it up the way you want it?

TONI MORRISON

Belief in oneself and knowing who you are—I mean, that’s the foundation for everything great.

JAY-Z

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

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.

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

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

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

You are not and yet you are: your thoughts, your deeds, above all your dreams still live.

W.E.B. DU BOIS

If everything was perfect, you would never learn and you would never grow.

BEYONCE KNOWLES

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

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

Short Black History Month quotes

While we are all unique in a way, we are all humans. Only a great character can make a great man, not the color of his skin, not his religion nor his sexual orientation. When we will understand this, we will be able to live in harmony.

Check out our list of short Black History Month quotes that are filled with life lessons.

The cost of liberty is less than the price of repression.

W.E.B. DU BOIS

If there is no struggle, there is no progress.

FREDERICK DOUGLASS

The time is always right to do what is right.

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.

Have a vision. Be demanding.

COLIN POWELL

Freedom is never given; it is won.

A. PHILIP RANDOLPH

Truth is powerful and it prevails.

SOJOURNER TRUTH

Character is power.

BOOKER T. WASHINGTON

The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.

IDA B. WELLS

Make a difference about something other than yourselves.

TONI MORRISON

The soul that is within me no man can degrade.

FREDERICK DOUGLASS

Don’t agonize, organize.

FLORYNCE KENNEDY

If you don’t have confidence, you’ll always find a way not to win.

CARL LEWIS

Stretch your mind and fly.

WHITNEY M. YOUNG JR

You are your best thing.

TONI MORRISON

Activism is my rent for living on the planet.

ALICE WALKER

In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist. We must be anti-racist.

ANGELA DAVIS (more Angela Davis quotes)

It’s not the load that breaks you down; it’s the way you carry it.

LENA HORNE

Be as you are and hope that it’s right.

DIZZY GILLESPIE

If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.

SHIRLEY CHISHOLM

The best way to make dreams come true is to wake up.

MAE C. JEMISON

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR

If you judge people, you have no time to love them.

MOTHER TERESA

A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.

NELSON MANDELA

Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.

MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.

I have standards I don’t plan on lowering for anybody, including myself.

ZENDAYA

The price of hating other human beings is loving oneself less.

ELDRIDGE CLEAVER

There is no vaccine for racism.

KAMALA HARRIS

Do we care to match the reality of America to its ideals?

BARACK OBAMA

Your willingness to look at your darkness is what empowers you to change.

IYANLA VANZANT

Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations.

DR. MAE JEMISON

Powerful Black History Month quotes

There are certain events in Afro-American history that have impacted the world and the way it has developed more than we think. While the pain caused can never be erased, we can still learn from our past mistakes and make sure to never repeat them again. We can all contribute to the change this world needs.

Here are some powerful Black History Month quotes that will impress you:

I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality…. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.

In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute.

THURGOOD MARSHALL

One day our descendants will think it incredible that we paid so much attention to things like the amount of melanin in our skin or the shape of our eyes or our gender instead of the unique identities of each of us as complex human beings.

FRANKLIN THOMAS

My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.

DESMOND TUTU

Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.

FREDERICK DOUGLASS

Wherever there is a human being, I see God-given rights inherent in that being, whatever may be the sex or complexion.

WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON

You’re not to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.

MALCOLM X

Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope.

ROBERT F. KENNEDY

In all things that are purely social we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress.

BOOKER T. WASHINGTON

One of the hardest things in life is having words in your heart that you can’t utter.

JAMES EARL JONES

Slavery is the next thing to hell.

HARRIET TUBMAN

There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.

NELSON MANDELA

I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me… all I ask is that you respect me as a human being.

JACKIE ROBINSON

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.

Famous black women quotes

It is still not easy to prove oneself as a woman, but in the past, most black women couldn’t even dare to dream about success. However, these ladies believed in themselves and made history along the way.

From civil rights activists to modern figures, here’s our list of famous black women quotes to inspire you to dream big:

Hate is too great a burden to bear. It injures the hater more than it injures the hated.

CORETTA SCOTT KING

Defining myself, as opposed to being defined by others, is one of the most difficult challenges I face.

CAROL MOSELEY-BRAUN

I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear.

ROSA PARKS

You’ve got to learn to leave the table when love’s no longer being served.

NINA SIMONE

Even if it makes others uncomfortable, I will love who I am.

JANELLE MONÁE

We all require and want respect, man or woman, black or white. It’s our basic human right.

ARETHA FRANKLIN

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

I should fight for my liberty as long as my strength lasted, and when the time came for me to go, the Lord would let them take me.

HARRIET TUBMAN

I am not going to die; I’m going home like a shooting star.

SOJOURNER TRUTH

One of the lessons that I grew up with was to always stay true to yourself and never let what somebody else says distract you from your goals. And so when I hear about negative and false attacks, I really don’t invest any energy in them, because I know who I am.

MICHELLE OBAMA

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

If we accept and acquiesce in the face of discrimination, we accept the responsibility ourselves and allow those responsible to salve their conscience by believing that they have our acceptance and concurrence. We should, therefore, protest openly everything… that smacks of discrimination or slander.

MARY MCLEOD BETHUNE

The need for change bulldozed a road down the center of my mind.

MAYA ANGELOU

I felt that one had better die fighting against injustice than to die like a dog or rat in a trap.  I had already determined to sell my life as early as possible if attacked. I felt if I could take one lyncher with me, this would even up the score a little bit.

IDA B. WELLS

Somebody once said we never know what is enough until we know what’s more than enough.

BILLIE HOLIDAY

If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.

TONI MORRISON (more Toni Morrison quotes)

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

There are still many causes worth sacrificing for, so much history yet to be made.

MICHELLE OBAMA

Whatever is bringing you down, get rid of it. Because you’ll find that when you’re free . . . your true self comes out.

TINA TURNER

I’m not quite sure what freedom is, but I know damn well what it ain’t. How have we gotten so silly, I wonder.

ASSATA SHAKUR

I had to make my own living and my own opportunity. But I made it! Don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them.

MADAM C.J. WALKER

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

I knew then and I know now, when it comes to justice, there is no easy way to get it.

CLAUDETTE COLVIN

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

‘We, the people.’  I felt somehow for many years that George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, just left me out by mistake. But through the process of amendment, interpretation and court decision I have finally been included in ‘We, the people.’

BARBARA JORDAN

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

I had no idea that history was being made.  I was just tired of giving up.

ROSA PARKS

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

Don’t try to lessen yourself for the world; let the world catch up to you.

BEYONCÉ

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

We’re bosses, and that’s what I consider feminism: female hustlers.

CARDI B

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

I am lucky that whatever fear I have inside me, my desire to win is always stronger.

SERENA WILLIAMS

As black women, we’re always given these seemingly devastating experiences — experiences that could absolutely break us. But what the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls the butterfly. What we do as black women is take the worst situations and create from that point.

VIOLA DAVIS

Don’t let anything stop you. There will be times when you’ll be disappointed, but you can’t stop.

SADIE T. M. ALEXANDER

For I am my mother’s daughter, and the drums of Africa still beat in my heart.

MARY MCLEOD BETHUNE

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

Life is not a spectator sport. If you’re going to spend your whole life in the grandstand just watching what goes on, in my opinion you’re wasting your life.

JACKIE ROBINSON

I need to see my own beauty and to continue to be reminded that I am enough, that I am worthy of love without effort, that I am beautiful, that the texture of my hair and that the shape of my curves, the size of my lips, the color of my skin, and the feelings that I have are all worthy and okay.

TRACEE ELLIS ROSS

When I look at the future, it’s so bright it burns my eyes.

OPRAH WINFREY

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

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

Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us.

WILMA RUDOLPH