75 Inspiring Black History Month Quotes by Beyoncé, Michelle Obama & More

It’s officially Black History Month—a time where we celebrate Black leaders and icons throughout history. But who says we only have to honor their contributions 28 days of the year?

As Kerry Washington so eloquently put it, "We don’t need it to be February to remember our history, celebrate our achievements [and] uplift our stories.” So, as we continue to reflect on the impact of trailblazers like Frederick Douglass and Annie Lee Cooper, we’re highlighting 75 of the best Black History Month quotes. From Barack Obama's thoughts on progress to Yara Shahidi’s touching tribute to Black women, keep reading for the most powerful sayings that will keep you inspired year-round.

20 Things (Big & Small) You Can Do to Support Black History Month

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1. “Many of us want change. I believe that when Black people tell our own stories, we can shift the axis of the world and tell our real history of generational wealth and richness of soul that are not told in our history books.” — Beyoncé

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2. “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

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3. “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

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4. "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

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5. “To be a Black girl is to be one of the reasons the universe thrives. Our lineage has taught me that I am integral, that we are important, even when society dismisses us, hiding the wonder of our presence.” — Yara Shahidi

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6. "Unless we start to fight and defeat the enemies in our own country, poverty and racism, and make our talk of equality and opportunity ring true, we are exposed in the eyes of the world as hypocrites when we talk about making people free." — Shirley Chisholm

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7. "we All Require And Want Respect, Man Or Woman, Black Or White. It's Our Basic Human Right." — Aretha Franklin

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8. "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

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9. “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.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

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

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11. “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

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12. “my Humanity Is Bound Up In Yours, For We Can Only Be Human Together.” – Desmond Tutu

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13. “history Has Shown Us That Courage Can Be Contagious, And Hope Can Take On A Life Of Its Own.” — Michelle Obama

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14. “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

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15. “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

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16. “you Can’t Separate Peace From Freedom Because No One Can Be At Peace Unless He Has His Freedom.” – Malcom X

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17. “the Thing About Black History Is That The Truth Is So Much More Complex Than Anything You Could Make Up.” — Henry Louis Gates

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18. “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

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19. “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

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20. “the Way To Right Wrongs Is To Turn The Light Of Truth Upon Them.” — Ida B. Wells

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21. “i Have Learned Over The Years That When One’s Mind Is Made Up, This Diminishes Fear.” — Rosa Parks

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22. “if There Is No Struggle, There Is No Progress.” — Frederick Douglass

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23. “It’s important for us to 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

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24. “diversity Is Not About How We Differ. Diversity Is About Embracing One Another’s Uniqueness.” — Ola Joseph

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25. “[Black history] is a lifetime of an experience to share in all ways and at all times. There are all different kinds of people. There is no way you can choose one person that is an example of everybody. We are varied in who we are as people, in the experiences that we have and the kinds of contributions that we make to our culture as a society.” — Tracee Ellis Ross

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26. “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

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27. “i Am No Longer Accepting The Things I Cannot Change. I Am Changing The Things I Cannot Accept.” ― Angela Y. Davis

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28. “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

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29. “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

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30. “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

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31. “the Cost Of Liberty Is Less Than The Price Of Repression.” – W.e.b. Du Bois

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32. “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.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

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33. “hold On To Your Dreams Of A Better Life And Stay Committed To Striving To Realize It.” — Earl G. Graves, Sr.

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34. “he Who Is Not Courageous Enough To Take Risks Will Accomplish Nothing In Life.” — Muhammad Ali

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35. “We tell people to follow their dreams, but you can only dream of what you can imagine, and, depending on where you come from, your imagination can be quite limited.” — Trevor Noah

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36. “nobody's Free Until Everybody's Free.” — Fannie Lou Hamer

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37. “once You Realize That You Can Do Something, It Would Be Difficult To Live With Yourself If You Didn’t Do It.” — James Baldwin

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38. “do The Best You Can Until You Know Better. Then When You Know Better, Do Better.” — Maya Angelou

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39. “the Time Is Always Right To Do What Is Right.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

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40. “If you’re a Black anything in this country, people want to put you into a bag. People sometimes say, ‘Well, you know, why is he doing that now, why can’t he stick to the blues and the spirituals?’ And I’m also a 20th century American, and I respond to Bach, and Ellington, and Benjamin Britten, and Samuel Barber, and why shouldn’t I?” — Alvin Ailey

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41. “hate Is Too Great A Burden To Bear. It Injures The Hater More Than It Injures The Hated.” – Coretta Scott King

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42. "Nothing can stop the power of a committed and determined people to make a difference in our society. Why? Because human beings are the most dynamic link to the divine on this planet." — John Lewis

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43. “both Tears And Sweat Are Salty, But They Render A Different Result. Tears Will Get You Sympathy; Sweat Will Get You Change.” ― Jesse Jackson

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44. “They told us that in Mississippi, segregation could only be attacked from the outside, and we went right to the heart of the beast and attacked it there and beat it there." — Julian Bond

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45. “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.” — Muhammad Ali

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46. “we Seek No Special Favors, But Certainly Have A Right To Expect Justice And Equal Protection Of The Laws." — Harry T. Moore

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47. “whatever We Believe About Ourselves And Our Ability Comes True For Us.” — Susan L. Taylor

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48. “darkness Cannot Drive Out Darkness; Only Light Can Do That. Hate Cannot Drive Out Hate; Only Love Can Do That.” — Martin Luther King Jr.

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49. “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

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50. "if They Don’t Give You A Seat At The Table, Bring A Folding Chair." —shirley Chisholm

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51. "righteousness Exalts A Nation. Hate Just Makes People Miserable." - Fannie Lou Hamer

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52. “If one really wishes to know how justice is administered in a country, one does not question the policemen, the lawyers, the judges, or the protected members of the middle class. One goes to the unprotected—those, precisely, who need the law’s protection most!—and listens to their testimony.” — James Baldwin

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53. "Release the need to hate, to harbor division, and the enticement of revenge. Release all bitterness. Hold only love, only peace in your heart, knowing that the battle of good to overcome evil is already won." —John Lewis

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54. “if We Do Not Know How To Meaningfully Talk About Racism, Our Actions Will Move In Misleading Directions.” ― Angela Y. Davis

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55. “a Man Without Knowledge Of Himself And His Heritage Is Like A Tree Without Roots.” — Dick Gregory

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56. “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

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57. “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

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58. “in Recognizing The Humanity Of Our Fellow Beings, We Pay Ourselves The Highest Tribute.” — Thurgood Marshall

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59. “there Are Still Many Causes Worth Sacrificing For, So Much History Yet To Be Made.” — Michelle Obama

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60. “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

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61. “Injustice still exists and it's going to take all of us—Black people, brown people, white people, Asian people, natives, all of us—to really come against injustices and work together.” – Common

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62. “if You Have No Critics, You’ll Likely Have No Success.” — Malcolm X

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63. “It's really important that we start to introduce the idea of race with Black history that begins before teaching kids about what black people were told they couldn't do. Black history and Black people were a lot of things before segregation and Jim Crow and the civil rights movement.” — Kerry Washington

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64. "you Can't Be What You Can't See." — Marian Wright Edelman

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65. “without Community, There Is No Liberation.” — Audre Lorde

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66. “true Peace Is Not Merely The Absence Of Tension; It Is The Presence Of Justice.” —martin Luther King Jr.

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67. “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

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68. “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

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69. “life Has Two Rules: 1. Never Quit! 2. Always Remember Rule Number One.” — Duke Ellington

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70. “i Can Accept Failure. Everyone Fails At Something. But I Can’t Accept Not Trying.” — Michael Jordan

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71. “somebody Once Said We Never Know What Is Enough Until We Know What’s More Than Enough.” — Billie Holiday

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72. “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

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73. “i’m Not Concerned With Your Liking Or Disliking Me… All I Ask Is That You Respect Me As A Human Being.” — Jackie Robinson

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74. "the Most Common Way People Give Up Their Power Is By Thinking They Don't Have Any." — Alice Walker

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75. “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

nakeisha campbell bio

Associate Editor, News and Entertainment

Nakeisha has been interviewing celebrities and covering all things entertainment for over 8 years, but she has also written on a wide range of topics, like career...