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Black History Motivationals Pt. 2

Updated: Feb 26, 2023

Every February in the U.S., we pause to honor the contributions and sacrifices of African Americans who have shaped this nation. Last week, we kicked off the first Sunday of Black History Month examining the origins of Black History Month and notable, inspirational quotes to leave us feeling inspired. (In case you missed it, you can click here for last week's article).

This week, we are continuing to spotlight inspirational quotes from notable Blacks across the diaspora. Welcome to part 2 of our Black History Motivationals.

Henry Louis Gates Jr. (b. September 16, 1950)

Henry Louis Gates Jr. is an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, literary scholar, journalist, cultural critic, and institution builder. In 1998, he became the first African American scholar to be awarded the National Humanities Medal. He is the current Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University. Professor Gates has authored or co-authored twenty-four books and created twenty-one documentary films, including Wonders of the African World, African American Lives, Faces of America, Black in Latin America, Black America since MLK: And Still I Rise, and Africa’s Great Civilizations. He has a groundbreaking genealogy series on PBS called Finding Your Roots.

"The thing about black history is that the truth is so much more complex than anything you could make up." ~Henry Louis Gates

Langston Hughes (February 1, 1901 - May 22, 1967)

Born James Mercer Langston Hughes, he was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist. Both of Hughes' paternal great-grandmothers were enslaved Africans, and both of his paternal great-grandfathers were white slave owners in Kentucky. In 1925, he was employed as a personal assistant to famed historian Carter G. Woodson until the work demands began interfering with Hughes' desire to write. Hughes enrolled in Lincoln University which was a historically black university in Pennsylvania; he joined Omega Psi Phi fraternity. Langston Hughes would go on to become a central figure in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. Published in The Crisis (1921), "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" became Hughes's signature poem and was collected in his first book of poetry, The Weary Blues (1926). In 2002, the United States Postal Service added the image of Langston Hughes to its Black Heritage series of postage stamps.

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

Colin Powell (April 5, 1937 – October 18, 2021)

Colin Luther Powell was born to Jamaican immigrants, both parents of mixed African and Scottish heritage. He learned Yiddish from a local shopkeeper where he worked. He went on to receive a bachelor's degree in geology from the City College of New York in 1958. Powell also graduated from George Washington University with an MBA in 1971 and received an Honorary Doctor of Public Service in 1990. He was a soldier for 35 years, rising to the rank of general on April 4, 1989. Colin Powell's distinguished career includes politician, statesman, and diplomat. He was the first African American United States Secretary of State, serving from 2001 to 2005. Colin Powell twice received the Presidential Medal of Freedom; first in 1991 by President George H. W. Bush and again on September 30, 1993, with the additional "with distinction" by President Bill Clinton.

"Have a vision. Be demanding." ~Colin Powell

Sojourner Truth (c. 1797 – November 26, 1883)

Born Isabella Baumfree, Sojourner Truth was born into slavery but escaped to freedom with her infant daughter in 1826. In 1828, she became the first African American woman to successfully take a white man to court to recover her son who had been sold into slavery in Alabama. In 1843, she changed her name to Sojourner Truth stating that she was instructed by Holy Spirit to do so. She would go on to become an abolitionist and women's rights activist.

Sojourner began dictating her memoirs to Olive Gilbert and in 1850, William Lloyd Garrison privately published her book, The Narrative of Sojourner Truth: A Northern Slave. Sojourner also became involved in women's rights advocacy giving speeches her most notable speech, Ain't I a Woman?, was given in Ohio at the 1851 Women's Rights Convention.

"Truth is powerful and it prevails." ~Sojourner Truth

Marcus Garvey (August 17, 1887 – June 10, 1940)

Marcus Mosiah Garvey Sr. was a black nationalist and Pan-Africanist, whose ideas came to be known as Garveyism. He was a Jamaican-born Black nationalist. Garvey campaigned for an end to European colonial rule across Africa and the political unification of the continent. He envisioned a unified Africa as a one-party state, governed by himself, that would enact laws to ensure black racial purity. He developed The UNIA flag, a tricolor of red, black, and green. According to Garvey, the red symbolizes the blood of martyrs, the black symbolizes the skin of Africans, and the green represents the vegetation of the African land. Garvey was a black separationist; he had controversial meetings with the KKK which alienated him from other prominent black civil rights activists who promoted racial integration. Both revered and reviled, many African Americans see him as having encouraged a sense of self-respect and pride among black people. This is one of his lasting legacies.

"If you have no confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life." ~Marcus Garvey

Alice Walker (b. February 9, 1944)

Born Alice Malsenior Walker, Alice Walker is an American novelist, short story writer, poet, and social activist. In 1982, she became the first African-American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, which she was awarded for her novel The Color Purple. In 1994, Walker legally added "Tallulah Kate" to her name to honor her mother, Minnie Tallulah Grant, and paternal grandmother, Tallulah. She met Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s while a student at Spelman College which influenced her to return South as an activist in the Civil Rights Movement. Throughout her distinguished career, Walker has published seven novels, four collections of short stories, four children's books, and volumes of essays and poetry.

"The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any." ~Alice Walker

Malcolm X (May 19, 1925 - February 21, 1965)

Born Malcolm Little, Malcolm X was an African-American Muslim minister and human rights activist who was a prominent figure during the civil rights movement. He was also a spokesman for the Nation of Islam until 1964. Malcolm X was a vocal advocate for black empowerment and the promotion of Islam within the black community. He spent his adolescence in and out of foster homes when his father died and his mother was hospitalized. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 1946 for larceny and breaking and entering. In prison, he became acquainted with and joined the Nation of Islam; he adopted the name Malcolm X to symbolize his unknown African ancestral surname. He would go on to break away from Nation of Islam embracing Sunni Islam instead. Malcolm X is often accused of preaching racism and violence. However, he resonated with so many African Americans because he expressed the pent-up anger, frustration, and bitterness of African Americans often criticizing the mainstream civil rights movement, challenging Martin Luther King Jr.'s notion of integration and non-violence. Malcolm X urged his followers to defend themselves “by any means necessary.” Regardless of the controversy, he is credited with raising the self-esteem of black Americans and reconnecting them with their African heritage.

"You cannot separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has freedom." ~Malcolm X

In celebration of Black History Month, what are some of your favorite inspirational quotes? Please feel free to join us in the comments below; your comment may just leave someone else inspired. As always thank you for your readership!

Did you know?

If you would like to know more about historical figures and key events, you can simply ask your Google Assistant, "Hey Google, what happened today in Black history?" Try it out today.


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