Black History Words of Inspiration

BLACK HISTORY MONTH INSPIRATIONAL QUOTES

February is Black History Month. Celebrate influential figures in Black History and inspire those in your school, congregation, or community with the memorable quotes below, or use them to supplement gifts, rewards, student incentives, and educational tools. Add them to speeches as well as pamphlets and other materials to motivate and remind people to be strong and never give up.

Be Strong

Muhammad Ali

He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.
—Muhammad Ali, Boxing champ

The greatest gift is not being afraid to question.
—Ruby Dee, Actress

If you don’t have confidence, you’ll always find a way not to win.
—Carl Lewis, Olympic athlete

Stretch your mind and fly.
—Whitney M. Young Jr., Civil rights activist

Be Proud

Nikki Giovanni

Deal with yourself as an individual worthy of respect and make everyone else deal with you the same way.
—Nikki Giovanni, Poet

If you’re not feeling good about you, what you’re wearing outside doesn’t mean a thing.
—Leontyne Price, Opera singer

Strive to make something of yourself; then strive to make the most of yourself.
—Alexander Crummell, Minister & scholar

You’ve got to love yourself enough, not only so that others will be able to love you, but that you’ll be able to love others.
—Dr. Cornel West, Professor & philosopher

Be Determined

Don’t let anything stop you. There will be times when you’ll be disappointed, but you can’t stop.
—Sadie T. M. Alexander, Lawyer & activist

Take advantage of every opportunity; where there is none, make it for yourself.
—Marcus Garvey, Nationalist leader

Marian Wright Edelman

You really can change the world if you care enough.
—Marian Wright Edelman, Activist & founder of the Children’s Defense Fund

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

Be You

Life is what your creator gave you for free. Style is what you do with it.
—Dr. Mae C. Jemison, Astronaut

Learn to see…listen…and think for yourself.
—Malcolm X, Civil rights leader

Maya Angelou

Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.
—Maya Angelou, Poet & memorist

Be as you are and hope that it’s right.
—Dizzy Gillespie, Jazz musician

Remembering the Past

We have a wonderful history behind us…and it is going to inspire us to greater achievements.
—Carter G. Woodson, Historian

A man without knowledge of himself and his heritage is like a tree without roots.
—Dick Gregory, Activist & comedian

If the house is to be set in order, one cannot begin with the present; he must begin with the past.
—John Hope Franklin, Historian

James Baldwin

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

Shaping the Future

Don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come; you have to get up and make them.
—Madame C.J. Walker, Entrepreneur

Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.
—Malcolm X, Civil rights leader

Our future lies chiefly in our own hands.
—Paul Robeson, Activist & singer

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

BLACK HISTORY MONTH POEMS & SONGS

Black History has always been associated with rich, meaningful music featuring words of wisdom. African Americans have used song, poetry, and inspirational words to power them through times of strife and joy. Use these familiar tunes and poems to add a powerful message to your Black History Month celebrations and year-round activities.

We Shall Overcome
This was an important protest song during the Civil Rights Movement. Many musicians have recorded it, including Pete Seeger, Mahalia Jackson, and Joan Baez.

We shall overcome
We shall overcome
We shall overcome some day

CHORUS:
Oh, deep in my heart
I do believe
We shall overcome some day

We’ll walk hand in hand
We’ll walk hand in hand
We’ll walk hand in hand some day

CHORUS

We shall live in peace,
We shall live in peace,
We shall live in peace, some day

CHORUS

We shall all be free
We shall all be free
We shall all be free some day

CHORUS

We are not afraid
We are not afraid
We are not afraid today

CHORUS

We are not alone
We are not alone
We are not alone today

CHORUS

The whole wide world around
The whole wide world around
The whole wide world around some day

CHORUS

We shall overcome
We shall overcome
We shall overcome some day

CHORUS

James Weldon Johnson

Lift Every Voice and Sing
This poem by James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) is also called “The Black American National Anthem.”

Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise,
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us,
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us March on till victory is won

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past, till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.

Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee,
Shadowed beneath Thy hand, may we forever stand,
True to our God, true to our native land.

Amazing Grace
Written by John Newton (1725-1807), Amazing Grace is one of the most beloved hymns of the last two centuries. It is commonly heard in African-American churches.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease;
I shall profess, within the vail,
A life of joy and peace.

This Little Light Of Mine
This children’s tune was composed by Harry Dixon Loes in 1920. It was popular among African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement and continues to be powerful today.

This little light of mine,
I’m going to let it shine.
Oh, this little light of mine,
I’m going to let it shine.
Hallelujah!
This little light of mine,
I’m going to let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Ev’ry where I go,
I’m going to let it shine.
Oh, ev-ry where I go,
I’m going to let it shine.
Hallelujah!
Ev’ry where I go,
I’m going to let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

All in my house,
I’m going to let it shine.
Oh, all in my house,
I’m going to let it shine.
Hallelujah!
All in my house,
I’m going to let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

I’m not going to make it shine.
I’m just going to let it shine.
I’m not going to make it shine.
I’m just going to let it shine.
Hallelujah!
I’m not going to make it shine.
I’m just going to let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Out in the dark,
I’m going to let it shine.
Oh, out in the dark,
I’m going to let it shine.
Hallelujah!
Out in the dark,
I’m going to let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
One of the most treasured and widely recognized African-American spirituals, this is believed to have been written by a black slave in the 1800s. It was first recorded in 1909 and has since been covered by many musicians, including B.B. King.

CHORUS:
Swing low, sweet chariot
Coming for to carry me home
Swing low, sweet chariot
Coming for to carry me home

I looked over Jordan, and what did I see
Coming for to carry me home
A band of angels coming after me
Coming for to carry me home

CHORUS

If you get there before I do
Coming for to carry me home
Tell all my friends I’m coming, too
Coming for to carry me home

CHORUS

I’m sometimes up and sometimes down
Coming for to carry me home
But still my soul feels heavenly bound
Coming for to carry me home

CHORUS

The brightest day that I can say
Coming for to carry me home
When Jesus washed my sins away
Coming for to carry me home

CHORUS

If I get there before you do
Coming for to carry me home
I’ll cut a hole and pull you through
Coming for to carry me home

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