Inspirational Quotes From Black Women Writers

by Kerri Jarema
West Point Military Academy, March, 2013.

As we continue to celebrate Black History Month (and Donald Trump continues to put his foot directly into his mouth at any every event he attends) we thought it was high time we turned to some inspirational quotes from our favorite Black women writers, so that we can bask in their wise words of wisdom.

From our modern favorites like Shonda Rhimes, to world revered like Maya Angelou, these women have long been sources of inspiration for many of us. Their books, essay collections and poems have reached into all corners of our lives; thoughts on feminism and modern women's lives, thoughts on Black culture, thoughts on living a creative life, thoughts on love, thoughts on faith, thoughts on politics. There is no aspect of culture that these writers have been afraid to touch.

Below we share some inspirational quotes from these 11 brilliant women. Some of them will make you cry, some of them will definitely make you laugh, but most of them will make you feel strong and capable and ready to create. And right now, we can’t think of anything we need more than a little bit of bravery and a whole lots of boldness. Write these quotes down, post a couple of favorites somewhere you can see them every day…sometimes it’s the little things that give us energy for the resistance.


Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“Some people ask: “Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that?” Because that would be dishonest. Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general—but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women.”

― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, We Should All Be Feminists

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Shonda Rhimes

“There is no list of rules. There is one rule. The rule is: there are no rules. Happiness comes from living as you need to, as you want to. As your inner voice tells you to. Happiness comes from being who you actually are instead of who you think you are supposed to be. Being traditional is not traditional anymore. It’s funny that we still think of it that way. Normalize your lives, people. You don’t want a baby? Don’t have one. I don’t want to get married? I won’t. You want to live alone? Enjoy it. You want to love someone? Love someone. Don’t apologize. Don’t explain. Don’t ever feel less than. When you feel the need to apologize or explain who you are, it means the voice in your head is telling you the wrong story. Wipe the slate clean. And rewrite it. No fairy tales. Be your own narrator. And go for a happy ending. One foot in front of the other. You will make it.”

― Shonda Rhimes, Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person

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Zadie Smith

“Stop worrying about your identity and concern yourself with the people you care about, ideas that matter to you, beliefs you can stand by, tickets you can run on. Intelligent humans make those choices with their brain and hearts and they make them alone. The world does not deliver meaning to you. You have to make it meaningful... and decide what you want and need and must do. It’s a tough, unimaginably lonely and complicated way to be in the world. But that’s the deal: you have to live; you can’t live by slogans, dead ideas, clichés, or national flags. Finding an identity is easy. It’s the easy way out.”

― Zadie Smith, On Beauty

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Roxane Gay

“I embrace the label of bad feminist because I am human. I am messy. I’m not trying to be an example. I am not trying to be perfect. I am not trying to say I have all the answers. I am not trying to say I’m right. I am just trying—trying to support what I believe in, trying to do some good in this world, trying to make some noise with my writing while also being myself.”

― Roxane Gay, Bad Feminist

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Issa Rae

“You guys know about vampires? . . . You know, vampires have no reflections in a mirror? There’s this idea that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. And what I’ve always thought isn’t that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. It’s that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves. And growing up, I felt like a monster in some ways. I didn’t see myself reflected at all. I was like, “Yo is something wrong with me? That the whole society seems to think that people like me don’t exist?” And part of what inspired me, was this deep desire that before I died, I would make a couple of mirrors. That I would make some mirrors so that kids like me might see themselves reflected back and might not feel so monstrous for it.”

― Issa Rae, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl

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Toni Morrison

West Point Military Academy, March, 2013.

“Make up a story... For our sake and yours forget your name in the street; tell us what the world has been to you in the dark places and in the light. Don't tell us what to believe, what to fear. Show us belief's wide skirt and the stitch that unravels fear's caul.”

― Toni Morrison, The Nobel Lecture In Literature, 1993


Zora Neale Hurston

Carl Van Vechten/Library of Congress

"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 is beyond me."

-Zora Neale Hurston, How It Feels To Be Colored Me


Jacqueline Woodson

“Even the silence

has a story to tell you.

Just listen. Listen.”

― Jacqueline Woodson, Brown Girl Dreaming

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Maya Angelou

William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum

“Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.

I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size

But when I start to tell them,

They think I'm telling lies.

I say,

It's in the reach of my arms

The span of my hips,

The stride of my step,

The curl of my lips.

I'm a woman


Phenomenal woman,

That's me.”

― Maya Angelou, Phenomenal Woman: Four Poems Celebrating Women

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Octavia Butler

“In order to rise

From its own ashes

A phoenix




― Octavia E. Butler, Parable of the Talents

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Alice Walker

“I am an expression of the divine, just like a peach is, just like a fish is. I have a right to be this way...I can't apologize for that, nor can I change it, nor do I want to... We will never have to be other than who we are in order to be successful...We realize that we are as ourselves unlimited and our experiences valid. It is for the rest of the world to recognize this, if they choose.”

― Alice Walker, The Color Purple

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