Black History Month is a time to remember and celebrate the lives and legacies of Black leaders who have ignited us to create a more hopeful and equitable future. We invite you to share these quotes and their authors’ stories with your children. May these wise words about dreams, desire, and opportunity inspire, influence, and challenge us all.
“Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations.” – Dr. Mae Jemison
Dr. Mae Jemison has always imagined a boundless future for herself. Not only is she the first African American woman to be admitted to NASA’s astronaut training program in 1987, but Dr. Jemison is also the first African American female astronaut! On September 12, 1992, she flew into space aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor. She is also a medical trained doctor, served in the Peace Corps, and currently runs a medical technology company.
“Don’t try to lessen yourself for the world; let the world catch up to you.” – Beyoncé
At a young age, Beyoncé had a vision to “Run the World.” She started performing at the age of seven and never stopped. During her teen years she entered the world stage as part of the famous female group, Destiny’s Child. Eventually she moved onto a wildly successful solo career and is now known as a multi-platinum recording artist who is acclaimed for her thrilling vocals and performances. Today, she holds the record for most Grammy wins ever by a female artist with a total of 28.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela
The first in his family to attend school and one of the first black lawyers in South Africa, Nelson Mandela believed education was a vehicle to bring equality of opportunity to the world. The social rights activist, politician and philanthropist was known and loved for his commitment to peace, negotiation, and reconciliation. In 1994, he became South Africa’s first democratically elected president after serving 27 years in prison for opposing South Africa’s apartheid laws.
“Practice creates confidence. Confidence empowers you.” – Simone Biles
Simone Biles started practicing gymnastics at the young age of six, teaching herself to flip off mailboxes. Over the years, she did countless more flips to refine technique and skills – and to build the necessary confidence to become the success that she is today. Simone is now known as one of the sports’ greatest athletes with a combined total of 32 Olympic and World Championship metals.
“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
Born a slave, Harriet Tubman dreamed of freedom. Through strength, patience, and passion, she eventually escaped to become an abolitionist and a “conductor” of the Underground Railroad leading other enslaved people to freedom. She influenced and changed countless lives through her many roles as a nurse, Union spy, and women’s suffrage supporter – and her words and story still inspire us today.
“We did not come to fear the future. We came here to shape it.” – Barack Obama
With hard work and dedication to service, Barack Obama was persistent and insistent on shaping the future. He made his mark on history as the 44th president of the United States and the first African American to serve in the office. First elected to the presidency in 2008, he won a second term in 2012. His story is the American story — a middle-class upbringing, strong values, and a belief in focus and education as a means of getting ahead. He used his conviction to lead a life serving others and influence world-wide change for the future.
“Once you learn to read, you will forever be free.” – Frederick Douglass
The escaped slave who turned a leader in the abolitionist movement, Frederick Douglass’ journey to freedom began by learning the alphabet at age 12. It was through reading that his opposition to slavery began to take shape; he shared his views with other slaves and taught them how to read the Bible. After escaping slavery, he became one of the most famous intellectuals of his time, an activist, author, and public speaker.
“What I’ve learned from myself is that I don’t have to be anybody else. Myself is good enough.” – Lupita Nyong’o
Born in Mexico, Lupita Nyong’o grew up in Kenya with an artistic family and learned early in life that she was unique. Her parents defied African traditions, encouraging their children to pursue their passions – so Lupita she chased her love for acting. The international filmmaker and Academy Award-winning actress speaks four languages, holds a graduate degree from Yale University, and despite her fame, spends her weekends as herself going to the farmer’s market.
“Did you know that the human voice is the only pure instrument? That it has notes no other instrument has?” – Nina Simone
If anyone understood the value of the human voice, it was Nina Simone. The legendary performer sang a mixture of jazz, blues, and folk music in the 1950’s and 60’s but was also as a leading voice of the Civil Rights Movement. She wrote songs in response to violence against Blacks, creating popular anthems for equality – and her voice emphasized her words, ringing with love, protest, and Black empowerment.