A photo montage showing Fannie Lou Hamer, Rep. John Lewis and Ida B. Wells
News + Advocacy

Black History Month: In the Words of the Changemakers …

Throughout this series of articles dedicated to Black History Month on Transatlantic Notes, we’ve encountered and learned about some incredible people. Often overcoming the all-pervading reach of racism within American society and the generational trauma it inflicts, there have been trailblazers, innovators and influential African Americans who have both challenged and changed this nation for the better.


But history does not always favour their contributions or reliably educate about who they were, what they achieved or what they hoped for. If certain parts of American history can be overlooked, they can be misrepresented and silenced. And suppressed voices don’t often get to decide how history is writteninstead, it’s frequently observed through a lens that distorts in service of those who do. We must collectively face what so many have given their life’s work to have us understand; the fight for equality, equity, justice and freedom requires truth, reconciliation and action.

Here is a collection of inspirational and motivational quotes for Black History Month …

Carter G. Woodson quote graphic that reads: “Real education means to inspire people to live more abundantly, to learn to begin with life as they find it and make it better.”
Carter G. Woodson – founder of Black History Month
Ida B. Wells quote graphic that reads: “The way to right wrongs is to shine the light of truth upon them.”
Ida B. Wells – journalist, researcher & early civil rights activist
Ruby Bridges quote graphic that reads: “I now know that experience comes to us for a purpose, and if we follow the guidance of the spirit within us, we will probably find that the purpose is a good one.”
Ruby Bridges – civil rights activist (first child to desegregate an elementary school in the South)
Fannie Lou Hamer quote graphic that reads: “When I liberate others, I liberate myself.”
Fannie Lou Hamer – voting & women’s rights activist, community organizer & civil rights leader
Bayard Rustin quote graphic that reads: “Let us be enraged about injustice, but Ley us not be destroyed by it.”
Bayard Rustin – civil rights social movements leader & gay rights activist
Martin Luther King Jr. quote graphic that reads: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
Martin Luther King Jr. – Baptist minister & civil rights leader
James Baldwin quote graphic that reads: “I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”
James Baldwin – novelist, playwright, essayist, poet & civil rights activist
Angela Davis quote graphic that reads: “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 – political activist, philosopher, academic & author
Audre Lorde quote graphic that reads: “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”
Audre Lorde – writer, feminist & civil rights activist
Shirley Chisholm quote graphic that reads: “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”
Shirley Chisholm – politician, feminist, educator & author
John Lewis quote graphic that reads: “Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.”
John Lewis – politician, statesman & civil rights activist & leader

Which is your favourite quote? How are you making sure the lives, words and actions of these Black History changemakers are honoured?

Further Info:

About Black History Month – ASALH

10 thoughts on “Black History Month: In the Words of the Changemakers …”

  1. I really liked reading these and found them all truly inspiring! Though two of them I think impacted me more and wrote them down:’when I liberate others, I liberate myself’ and ‘if they don’t give you a seta at the table, bring a folding chair’ I mean, these women are so inspiring and really need to get other people to know them! Just found out that Miss Chisholm wrote some books, so can’t wait to learn more about her! Thank you very much x


  2. Wow! All of these are so powerful. I will never fully understand what Black people went through but I love that I can continuously be educated about their history. The James Baldwin one was my favourite. It’s so raw and can be relatable. Thanks for sharing, Molly x


  3. I loved all of these, but the Ruby Bridges quote really spoke to me – that experience comes to us for a purpose. Thank you for sharing them!

    You mentioned parts of American history being misrepresented and suppressed – I was watching a YouTube video yesterday of Reni Eddo-Lodge talking to Emma Watson about the same thing happening in the UK. It’s frightening how much of history isn’t what we think it is (we often think it’s just facts, when it’s actually someone’s version of the facts). I was an adult before I realised this! When you’re at school you tend to just accept what you’re told, and it’s dangerous.


    1. The quote from Ruby Bridges speaks to me too on many levels — she’s truly amazing! I think the UK very much has the same issue with how it (mis)represents its own history. I think a lot of people are missing out on being given a full, robust history education and it perpetuates misinformation and often paints oppressors/colonizers as saints. Hopefully, things will change even more so that things are no longer selectively edited.


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