I’ve always been a collector of quotes. As a teenager, I would write quotes in my journals. Today, I have a note in my phone where I jot down quotes from novels, podcasts, Youtube series, pastors, CEOS and thought leaders. Words have so much power and can spur people to action and encourage empathy.
In honor of Black History Month, we gathered some inspirational quotes from Black women leaders in history and today. Inventors, mothers, pioneers, activists, daughters, teachers, writers, sisters, we wanted to highlight the beauty of Black women—the elegance, the dignity, the persistence, the grit, the strength, the gentleness, the intellect and the wisdom. We hope these words inspire you.
We honor the Black heroines past and present who have broken down barriers and paved the way for today’s generation of women.
“Failure: Is it a limitation? Bad timing? It’s a lot of things. It’s something you can’t be afraid of, because you’ll stop growing. The next step beyond failure could be your biggest success in life.” — Debbie Allen, professional dancer, choreographer, actress, singer-songwriter, director and producer
“Pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.”
“I’d rather regret the risks that didn’t work out than the chances I didn’t take at all.” — Simone Biles, five-time Olympic medalist and the most decorated gymnast in World Championship history
“I’d rather regret the risks that didn’t work out than the chances I didn’t take at all.” — Simone Biles
“People are ugly not in their face but in their thoughts. So never get impressed by someone’s appearance, rather dig deep down into their thoughts to reveal the real person inside out.” — Madam CJ Walker, entrepreneur, philanthropist, activist and the first American female self-made millionaire
“Everyone talks about age, but it’s not about age. It’s about work ethic. Winning never gets old.” — Lisa Leslie, former All-Star basketball player, Olympic gold medalist and WNBA league MVP
“Anyone who claims to be a leader must speak like a leader. That means speaking with integrity and truth.” — Kamala Harris, first female vice president and the first Black and first Asian American vice president.
“Anyone who claims to be a leader must speak like a leader. That means speaking with integrity and truth.” — Kamala Harris
“Know that you can start late, look different, be uncertain and still succeed.” — Misty Copeland, the first Black female principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre
“The air is the only place free from prejudice.” — Bessie Coleman, the first Black and the first Native American female pilot
“Let’s count the Black women in C-suite positions in Silicon Valley. Do you know any? So, an opportunity comes, I must take it. I must take it. Because first of all, I do have something to prove. I have to hold the door.” — Bozoma Saint John, Chief Marketing Officer at Netflix and the first Black C-Suite Executive
“I do have something to prove. I have to hold the door.” — Bozoma Saint John
“Don’t follow the path. Go where there is no path and begin the trail. When you start a new trail equipped with courage, strength and conviction, the only thing that can stop you is you!” — Ruby Bridges, Civil Rights activist and first Black child to desegregate an all-white elementary school in the South
“I tell my students, ‘When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.” — Toni Morrison, Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize winning novelist, editor and professor
“The future of life as we know it is being determined by everything we’re doing—and not doing. Now.” — Oprah, host and supervising producer of the top-rated, award-winning The Oprah Winfrey Show, author and philanthropist
“You’ve got to learn to leave the table when love’s no longer being served ” — Nina Simone, singer-songwriter, musician, arranger and Civil Rights activist
“You’ve got to learn to leave the table when love’s no longer being served ” — Nina Simone
“Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It’s beyond me.” — Zora Neale Hurston, author, anthropologist and filmmaker
“Racism is not a thing of the past. It was not ‘solved’ 50 years ago. We are a nation in crisis and the racism underlying this crisis must be addressed today.” — Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director, National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
“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, Civil Rights activist