Featured Photo Via Mayaangelou.com
Since 1976, Black History Month has been celebrated in February each year to cherish the struggles and achievements of the millions of Black men and women in this country over the past four hundred years. The federal observance also helps educate all Americans about the incredibly significant and vital role that Black people played in making the United States what it is today.
Here are a few of the most powerful quotes to remember and honor the Black struggle for equality and rights in this country:-
The Beauty of Black History
The historian and filmmaker Henry Louis Gates once observed:-
“The thing about black history is that the truth is so much more complex than anything you could make up.”
This complexity and beauty of getting to learn Black history derives from both the diversity of Black experiences and the long and arduous struggle that marks the African-American history on this side of the Atlantic.
Hence, in an ironic way, Black history could also be understood in just one sentence. It was put perfectly by Barbara Jordan, the first Black woman ever elected to the House of Representatives in 1972:-
“What the people want is very simple – they want an America as good as its promise.”
This single sentence beautifully captures the essence of all the strives that Black people have made ever since their arrival in North America.
The Cost of Liberty
Of course, Black people have been all too well aware of the treacherous waters that had to be treaded on their path to realizing the liberal American promise. The early Civil Rights pioneer and activist Claudette Colvin elaborates on her own experience in fighting for the right cause:-
“I knew then and I know now that, when it comes to justice, there is no easy way to get it.”
Nonetheless, as the Dutch-African-American scholar W. E. B. DuBois noted nearly a century ago:-
“The cost of liberty is less than the price of repression.”
The Noble Struggle
However difficult and excruciating, the path towards Black justice was paved by brave men and women willing to stand up for the rights of their brethren. This struggle is necessary, for as the Black anthropologist and historian Zora Neale Hurston put it:-
“If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.”
The noble struggle for Civil Rights began first and foremost with consciousness and confidence. Novelist and activist Alice Walker once wrote:-
“The most common way through which people usually give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”
With this confidence in the righteousness of racial equality and the worthiness of Black life, history can be made by actions that should be benign in a modern democratic society. Rosa Parks, the Black woman arrested for violating the Jim Crow segregation regime when it came to public transit, reflected on her heroic actions in the following words:-
“I had no idea that history was being made. I was just tired of giving up.”
The Change Is Here!
The first Black President in the American history, Mr. Barack Obama noted that this egalitarian change originates from everyone’s efforts:-
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
Fortunately, change has indeed come progressively, but albeit much more slowly than one could wish for. The Black entertainment icon Harry Belafonte has observed:-
“When I was born, I was colored. I soon became a Negro. Not long after that I was black. Most recently I was African-American. It seems we’re on a roll here. But I am still first and foremost in search of freedom.”
With the gradual leveling of the playing field, Black success is possible in the highest echelons of the American society today as never before. Hence, poetess Maya Angelou proudly declared:-
“I am the dream and the hope of the slave.”