Did you know that before Black History Month was made official in 1976, it was celebrated for just one week in February each year?
A quick history lesson on why Black History Month is in February
If you’re wondering why Black History Month is in February––the shortest month in the entire year––you’re not alone. It all started nearly 100 years ago with Dr. Carter G. Woodson, a Black historian considered the ‘Father of Black History.’ In 1926, Woodson founded Negro History Week during a particular week in February that spanned the birthdays of both Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.
The National Museum of African American History & Culture documented Woodson’s contributions in this tweet:
In February 1926, Dr. Carter G. Woodson started Negro History Week with @ASALH.
— Smithsonian NMAAHC (@NMAAHC) February 1, 2018
Woodson tirelessly advocated for proper education on the Black experience in America throughout history, a huge part of America’s narrative which was rarely touched on in history books, and still is often barely covered in public school curriculum. After his death, local community leaders and organizers followed his lead, organizing to expand the weeklong holiday into an entire month, which was finally officially recognized in 1976.
Black History Month: people worth paying attention to
The truth is, we should celebrate Black history, Black joy, and the Black experience all year long –– Kerry Washington said it better than I can––but especially this month, it’s important to take some time to listen to and amplify the voices of Black people in America.
Today is the first day of #BlackHistoryMonth but we don’t need it to be February to remember our history, celebrate our achievements, uplift our stories MAKE BLACK HISTORY 🖤🖤🖤🖤🖤🖤
— kerry washington (@kerrywashington) February 1, 2021
This is not about to be a round-up of out-of-context Black History Month quotes, often posted by countless brands and thought leaders; it’s meant to be much more authentic than that.
Instead, it’s a collection of quotes from various Black celebrities I admire, including snippets from song lyrics, Instagram captions, tweets, books, or interviews. Each one represents a small snippet of each celebrity’s experience being Black in America.
Keep scrolling to read 20 quotes for Black History Month from Black celebrities. If you want some background music while you read, take a look at this Spotify playlist we specially curated for Black History Month.
Black History Month Quotes
“If there’s anything to learn from this year, and I hope from our little movie…it’s gratitude for every moment and every person we get to love. To stop and acknowledge the people in our lives who make it possible to do the work we do and honestly, make life worth living. It comes in many forms and sometimes it’s just a thank you.”
Halle Bailey, one part of the iconic sister-singer duo Chloe x Halle, shared this in a June 2020 interview with Vogue:
“We’ve always learned to just keep our heads up no matter the situation. No matter what anybody has to say about you…just keep pushing.”
MA Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley:
We can’t play small when lives are on the line.
— Ayanna Pressley (@AyannaPressley) February 5, 2021
Tracee Ellis Ross, in conversation with the Evening Standard Magazine:
“I would like to think I’m a poster child for cultivating a life of freedom and joy. That is actually on my terms. That is my choice.”
Trevor Noah, comedian and host of The Daily Show With Trevor Noah, in his memoir Born a Crime:
“We tell people to follow their dreams, but you can only dream of what you can imagine, and, depending on where you come from, your imagination can be quite limited.”
Songstress, actress, and model Justine Skye with this important reminder:
Don’t forget to mind your business
— Justine Skye (@JustineSkye) January 19, 2021
Shrill star comedian Lolly Adefope talking about friendship in her January 2020 profile in The Cut:
“I try and imagine what I would want to hear when I’m in a crisis. And when my best friend’s in a crisis, I tell her to imagine what she would say to me.”
Dianne Durham, the first Black U.S. women’s champion gymnast, shared this in an interview with ESPN last summer:
“People said, you’re the first Black — I’m using Black because African American wasn’t a term in my era — national champion. Do you know that didn’t go through my head one time?”
Former First Lady Michelle Obama in her book, Becoming:
“Do we settle for the world as it is, or do we work for the world as it should be?”
Grammy-nominated Yung Baby Tate telling it like it is in “I Am,” her platinum hit song:
“I am hеalthy, I am wealthy
I am rich, I am that b*tch
I am gonna go get that bag
And I am not gonna take your sh*t”
Lyric Source: Genius
Issa Rae, in conversation with Vogue earlier this month on how she defines Blackness on screen:
“I’ve always made it clear that my characters are very specific Black people—I’m not trying to represent an entire race with my work because I can’t do that and it’s not my place to do so.”
H.E.R. with some no-BS motivation:
Viola Davis recently shared this inspirational tweet and selfie:
My takeaway from 2020…..Let your light shine…..without apology!!! 💛 pic.twitter.com/ks47DKYb5T
— Viola Davis (@violadavis) February 3, 2021
Brandy quoted her own lyrics from her song “High Heels” alongside this gorgeous shot:
“It’s me who validates me/See the growth and it makes me proud/There ain’t no shallow in me”
J. Cole gets honest about how he rediscovered his love for rap in his essay published on The Players’ Tribune:
“Father Time might not bring my bounce back, I thought, but if I rededicated my time and attention to my craft and allowed myself to fall back in love with the sport of rap, then I could far surpass any level that my pen ever reached in the past.”
Stacey Abrams, the Georgia politician, voting rights activist, and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, in conversation with The Daily Show host Trevor Noah:
“Black women tend to bear the brunt of every evil, and bear the responsibility for every failure, and so our only response has to be that we’re going to push harder, fight longer, and recognize that we will go unrecognized.”
Support the work of Stacey Abrams by reading her books: All In: The Fight for Democracy and Our Time Is Now: Power, Purpose, and the Fight for a Fair America.
Grownish star and outspoken social justice activist Yara Shahidi in an August 2020 conversation with The Guardian:
“I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the Harry Belafontes and Eartha Kitts, the Sidney Poitiers and many others who jeopardized their careers and combined their art with their activism. I feel an immense privilege to be able to do the same.”
SZA on being Black:
BEING BLACK IS VERY TUFFF IN EVERY ASPECT WOW lol … grateful to be in my skin tho 😣🙏🏾
— SZA (@sza) January 25, 2021
Poet laureate Amanda Gorman in the poem she recited on Inauguration Day 2021:
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it
If only we’re brave enough to be it
The late Cicely Tyson on the various roles she has performed in a November 2017 interview with Elle:
“The gratification comes, for me, in the doing of it. And once I’ve done it, I can’t do anything about it if it’s good or if it’s bad. So I don’t torture myself.”
Get a copy of Cicely Tyson’s memoir, Just As I Am, right here.
Did we leave out anyone you would like to see in this roundup of quotes? Let us know on Instagram.
Celebrate Black History Month all year with these items
Black History Month Shirts
Get this Black History Month shirt with artwork inspired by Amanda Gorman’s Inaugural poem.
Get this Black History Month shirt that unapologetically claims that Black Lives Matter.
Black History Month Posters
Get this poster that showcases SZA’s Control album cover and tracklist.
Get this poster that includes Black History Month colors and the names of Black Americans who were unjustly murdered by police.
More Like This: check out our recent watchlist of movies, documentaries, and TV shows that all teach you something about the Black experience in America.
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