20 Inspiring Quotes From Black Women To Celebrate Black History Month

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Every February, Americans celebrate Black History Month by recounting the many, many contributions Black people have made to today's society and culture that have often been the subject of historical erasure. Long before Black History Month was declared a national observance in 1976 by President Gerald Ford, Black author and historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson founded "Negro History Week" in 1926, according to the NAACP, out of frustration of the lack of representation of black people in historical text. Black women and their accomplishments are often overlooked during Black History Month (and, well, every other month) while society centers men, but it's undeniable that black women have inexorably shaped the history of the United States, making huge contributions in social justice, STEM, literature, art and more.

From black women abolitionists to the women who led demonstrations and protests during the Civil Rights Movement, or even to the real life mathematicians who helped America get to space in the 1960s (and inspired the movie Hidden Figures), black women have always been on the front lines of progress — in history and in the present. Here are 20 inspiring, insightful, and powerful quotes from black women who have changed the world, in honor of Black History Month.

Ida B. Wells, American Journalist And Civil Rights Activist

“The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.” — Ida B. Wells

Janet Mock, Writer And Activist

“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, Redefining Realness.

Sojourner Truth, Abolitionist And Women's Right's Activist

"If women want any rights more than they's got, why don't they just take them, and not be talking about it." — Sojourner Truth

Shirley Chisholm, American Politician

"You don't make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas." — Shirley Chisholm

Misty Copeland, American Ballerina

"The path to your success is not as fixed and inflexible as you think." — Misty Copeland

Michelle Obama, Lawyer, Writer, And Former First Lady Of The United States

"We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own 'to do' list." — Michelle Obama

Zora Neale Hurston, Novelist

"No matter how far a person can go the horizon is still way beyond you." — Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

Angela Davis, Author, Activist, And Scholar

"Feminism involves so much more than gender equality and it involves so much more than gender. Feminism must involve consciousness of capitalism (I mean the feminism that I relate to, and there are multiple feminisms, right). So it has to involve a consciousness of capitalism and racism and colonialism and post-colonialities, and ability and more genders than we can even imagine and more sexualities than we ever thought we could name." — Angela Davis

Coretta Scott King, Civil Rights Activist And Author

"Struggle is a never ending process. Freedom is never really won, you earn it and win it in every generation." — Coretta Scott King

Dr. Mae Jemison, NASA Astronaut

"Never limit yourself because of others’ limited imagination; never limit others because of your own limited imagination." — Dr. Mae Jemison

Dr. Maya Angelou, Poet And Author

"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." — Dr. Maya Angelou

Shonda Rhimes, TV Producer, Screenwriter, And Author

"I am not lucky. You know what I am? I am smart, I am talented, I take advantage of the opportunities that come my way and I work really, really hard. Don’t call me lucky. Call me a badass.” — Shonda Rhimes, Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person

Madam C.J. Walker, Philanthropist, First Female Self-Made Millionaire In America, Entrepreneur, And Activist

"I had to make my own living and my own opportunity. But I made it! Don't sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them." — Madam C.J. Walker

Harriet Tubman, Abolitionist And Civil Rights Activist

“There are two things I’ve got a right to, and these are, Death or Liberty — one or the other I mean to have. No one will take me back alive; I shall fight for my liberty, and when the time has come for me to go, the Lord will let them, kill me." — Harriet Tubman

Ella Fitzgerald, Jazz Singer

"Just don't give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don't think you can go wrong." — Ella Fitzgerald

Bell Hooks, Author

“I am passionate about everything in my life — first and foremost, passionate about ideas. And that's a dangerous person to be in this society, not just because I'm a woman, but because it's such a fundamentally anti-intellectual, anti-critical thinking society." — bell hooks, Reel to Real: Race, Sex, and Class at the Movies

Diana Ross, Singer, Songwriter, And Actor

“You can’t just sit there and wait for people to give you that golden dream. You’ve got to get out there and make it happen for yourself.” — Diana Ross

Rosa Parks, Civil Rights Activist

“I have learned over the years that when one's mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.” — Rosa Parks

Alice Walker, Novelist And Pulitzer Prize Winner

“I think us here to wonder, myself. To wonder. To ask. And that in wondering bout the big things and asking bout the big things, you learn about the little ones, almost by accident. But you never know nothing more about the big things than you start out with. The more I wonder, the more I love.” — Alice Walker, The Color Purple