Who Said That? 15 Greatest Quotes From the Black Community

Maya Angelou teaching at Wichita State University. WSU Special Collections

Within our culture and history, we’ve been grateful to have the guidance and wisdom of our many black writers, philosophers, entertainers, philanthropist and public figures, who are in the same space as us.

These individuals have been the teachers of tough times and the ones who weren’t afraid to give tough love, but ultimately did it for the growth of our people and a stretch on our intelligence.

Just like their actions, these teachers have given off as much power through their words, and today, we’re highlighting 15 times those words have impacted our lives.

1. James Baldwin (1924-1987: novelist, social critic)

James Baldwin photographed by Dmitri Kasterine, Saint-Paul-de-Vence, Franch, 1976

“Ignorace, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”- James Baldwin

2. Angela Davis (activist, author)

Angela Davis speaking at Quarry Amphitheater, May 1978. UCSC Special Collections

“You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. And you have to do it all the time.”-Angela Davis

3. Langston Hughes (1902-1967: poet, social activist, novelist)

Langston Hughes

“Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.”-Langston Hughes

4. Maya Angelou (1928-2014: poet, civil rights activist)

Maya Angelou photographed by G. Paul Bishop Jr.

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”-Maya Angelou

5. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968: minister, civil rights activist)

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., photographed with his daughter Yolanda by James Karales, 1962: Image © Courtesy of the Estate of James Karales

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

6. Eartha Kitt (1927-2008: singer, dancer, actress, activist)

Eartha Kitt photographed by Aroldo di Crollalanza

“It’s all about falling in love with yourself and sharing that love with someone who appreciates you, rather than looking for love to compensate for a self-love deficit.”-Eartha Kitt

7. Barack Obama (President of the United States, politician)

Barack Obama photographed by Pablo Martinez Monsivais during his farewell address at McCormick Place in Chicago, January 10, 2017

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” -Barack Obama

8. Michelle Obama (First Lady, lawyer, writer)

Michelle Obama speaking at BET’s Black Girls Rock Ceremony, 2015

“When you’ve worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. You reach back, and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.”-Michelle Obama

9. Oprah Winfrey (philanthropist, producer, actress)

Oprah Winfrey speaking at the 2018 Golden Globes

“Every time you state what you want or believe, you’re the first to hear it. It’s a message to both you and others about what you think is possible. Don’t put a ceiling on yourself.”-Oprah Winfrey

10. Tupac Shakur (rapper, actor, poet)

Tupac Shakur photographed by Ron Galella, 1994

“Pay no mind to those who talk behind your back, it simply means that you are two steps ahead.”-Tupac Shakur

11. Viola Davis (actress, producer)

Viola Davis speaking at the 2017 Academy Awards ceremony

“I had to defend myself as an artist, but I found myself defending myself as a dark-skinned black woman in front of people who did not know my life. I took my wig off because I no longer wanted to apologize for who I am.”-Viola Davis

12. Will Smith (actor, producer)

Will Smith

“Throughout life people will make you mad, disrespect you and treat you bad. Let God deal with the things they do, cause hate in your heart will consume you too.”-Will Smith

13. Beyoncé (singer, songwriter)

Beyoncé performing at Hilary Clinton’s Campaign Concert, 2016

“I can never be safe; I always try and go against the grain. As soon as I accomplish one thing, I just set a higher goal. That’s how I’ve gotten to where I am.”-Beyoncé

14. Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter (rapper, businessman)

Jay-Z performing at the 4:44 Tour, photographed by Michael Gonzales

“”I’m hungry for knowledge. The whole thing is to learn every day, to get brighter and brighter. That’s what this world is about. You look at someone like Gandhi, and he glowed. Martin Luther King glowed. Muhammad Ali glows. I think that’s from being bright all the time, and trying to be brighter.”-Jay-Z

15. Tracee Ellis Ross (actress)

Tracee Ellis Ross photographed for The New Potato

“I am learning every day to allow the space between where I am and where I want to be to inspire me and not terrify me.” -Tracee Ellis Ross

Diamond Jones

Jr. Editor Lifestlye/Entertainment Department

Diamond Jones, 21, is a St.Louis native, born on the west side of Detroit. She is currently a junior, studying Journalism, with a minor in Criminology and Criminal Justice. Her writing reaches to audiences everywhere, directing it toward the empowerement and excellence of black people and their accomplishments. She has written for The Daily Egyptian, LoveThisTrackTV, Georgia State’s The Signal and the National Association of Black Journalists, which she is a dedicated member of. She hopes to continue to inspire those through her words and make those who feel underrepresented, see their light.