Juneteenth is a celebration of the emancipation of enslaved people in America. It is a time where Americans are meant to acknowledge the atrocities of the country's past, celebrate the advancements of the Black community, and work toward a better, more equal future. But with Black lives still being senselessly taken every day, it can be hard to feel like true emancipation was ever achieved. For this Juneteenth, inspirational quotes by great Black leaders can give you just the motivation you need to keep fighting the good fight.
This year will mark 155 years since the original Juneteenth. And while it has been more than a century since enslaved people were freed, Black Americans are still not given the same freedoms awarded to citizens of other races. But that doesn't mean Juneteenth shouldn't be celebrated. What it does mean is that while we commemorate the Black community and all they have achieved and overcome, it's also important to remember more work is to be done. And if you need a little help getting motivated to do the work, who better to look to than the great Black pioneers of history?
Here are 21 quotes that'll get you inspired this Juneteenth.
1. “Anytime anyone is enslaved, or in any way deprived of his liberty, if that person is a human being, as far as I am concerned he is justified to resort to whatever methods necessary to bring about his liberty again.” — Malcolm X
2. “If the cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. Because the goal of America is freedom, abused and scorned tho' we may be, our destiny is tied up with America's destiny.” — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
3. “Every year we must remind successive generations that this event triggered a series of events that one by one defines the challenges and responsibilities of successive generations. That’s why we need this holiday.” — Al Edwards
4. “My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.” —Desmond Tutu
5. “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
6. “I swear to the Lord I still can’t see why democracy means everybody but me.” — Langston Hughes
7. “I knew then and I know now, when it comes to justice, there is no easy way to get it.” — Claudette Colvin
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
9. “We all require and want respect, man or woman, Black or white. It’s our basic human right.” — Aretha Franklin
10. “There are still many causes worth sacrificing for, so much history yet to be made.” — Michelle Obama
11. “If you know whence you came, there is really no limit to where you can go.” — James Baldwin
12. “God’s time [Emancipation] is always near. He set the North Star in the heavens; He gave me the strength in my limbs; He meant I should be free.” — Harriet Tubman
13. “Freedom is not something that one people can bestow on another as a gift. Thy claim it as their own and none can keep it from them.” — Kwame Nkrumah
14. “We need, in every community, a group of angelic troublemakers.” — Bayard Rustin
15. “Everything will change. The only question is growing up or decaying.” — Nikki Giovanni
16. “I find freedom sexy. I find freedom so sexy, I can’t even explain it to you. You wake up every day and feel like you can do anything.” — Prince
17. “You can’t separate peace from freedom, because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.” — Malcolm X
18. “Go to work! Go to work in the morn of a new creation… until you have… reached the height of self-progress, and from that pinnacle bestow upon the world a civilization of your own.” — Marcus Garvey
19. “Do not be silent; there is no limit to the power that may be released through you.” ―Howard Thurman
20. “We are not ready to fight because we love fighting. We are ready to fight because we are worth fighting for.” ―Zoé Samudzi
21. “I just don’t believe that when people are being unjustly oppressed that they should let someone else set rules for them by which they can come out from under that oppression.” — Malcolm X