Inspiring Words from Great African-American Writers | Black History Month


Our nation is indebted to the literary contributions of these and other African-American writers.

Maya Angelou

“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.”

Maya Angelou, Celebrations: Rituals of Peace and Prayer

Martin Luther King Jr.

“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was ‘well timed’ in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word ‘Wait!’ It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This ‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never.’ We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that ‘justice too long delayed is justice denied.'”

Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail

Toni Morrison

“He didn’t needs words or even want them because he knew how they could lie, could heat your blood and disappear.”

Toni Morrison, Jazz

Langston Hughes

“An artist must be free to choose what he does, certainly, but he must also never be afraid to do what he might choose.”

Langston Hughes, The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain

Frederick Douglass

“I have sometimes thought that the mere hearing of those songs would do more to impress some minds with the horrible character of slavery, than the reading of whole volumes of philosophy on the subject could do.”

Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

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