Black History Month remains an important moment for America to celebrate the achievements and contributions black Americans have played in U.S. history. Arising out of “Negro History Week,” which first began in the 1920s, February has since been designated as Black History Month by every U.S. president since 1976.
In honor of this year’s Black History Month, we’ve gathered 30 inspirational quotes from some of the most influential black personalities of all time.
1. “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
2. “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
3. “Do not call for black power or green power. Call for brain power.” – Barbara Jordan
4. “Hate is too great a burden to bear. It injures the hater more than it injures the hated.” – Coretta Scott King
5. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
6. “I am where I am because of the bridges that I crossed. Sojourner Truth was a bridge. Harriet Tubman was a bridge. Ida B. Wells was a bridge. Madame C. J. Walker was a bridge. Fannie Lou Hamer was a bridge.” – Oprah Winfrey
7. “Whatever we believe about ourselves and our ability comes true for us.” – Susan L. Taylor, journalist
8. “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
9. “In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute.” – Thurgood Marshall, first African American on the U.S. Supreme Court
10. “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
11. “Have a vision. Be demanding.” – Colin Powell, the first African American appointed as the U.S. Secretary of State
12. “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.” – President Barack Obama
13. “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
14. “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
15. “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
16. “Freedom is never given; it is won.” – A. Philip Randolph
17. Defining myself, as opposed to being defined by others, is one of the most difficult challenges I face. – Carol Moseley-Braun
18. “Diversity is not about how we differ. Diversity is about embracing one another’s uniqueness.” – Ola Joseph
19. “Where there is no vision, there is no hope.” – George Washington Carver
20. “You really can change the world if you care enough.” – Marian Wright Edelman
21. “Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.” – Zora Neale Hurston
22. “Surround yourself with people who take their work seriously, but not themselves, those who work hard and play hard.” – Colin Powell
23. 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.
24. “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
25. “Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations.” – Dr. Mae Jemison, first African-American female astronaut
26. “The cost of liberty is less than the price of repression.” – W.E.B. Du Bois
27. “I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminshes fear.” – Rosa Parks
28. “I have observed this in my experience of slavery, that whenever my condition was improved, instead of increasing my contentment; it only increased my desire to be free, and set me thinking of plans to gain my freedom.” – Frederick Douglass
29. “The past is a ghost, the future a dream. All we ever have is now.” – Bill Cosby
30. “For I am my mother’s daughter, and the drums of Africa still beat in my heart.” – Mary McLeod Bethune