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45 Great Quotes From Black Leaders Throughout History

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Last Updated on

Imagine the resilience and power that a person would have even when after facing prejudice and hate their whole lives, they managed to be successful. That is why whenever we hear any quotes from black leaders, we stand up and take notice because that wisdom is priceless.

The definition of a leader is arbitrary. For me, a leader is anyone who has inspired others to lead their life in a better way. A leader is not bound by race, sexuality, or profession. They could be a coworker, a boss, or even someone who speaks out against workplace injustice when no one else does. It's almost unbelievable how seemingly ordinary people can inspire the people around them by undertaking small but impactful actions.

45 Quotes From Black Leaders That'll Give You A Lesson In Perseverance

These 45 quotes from black leaders are a masterclass in learning how to believe in yourself when no one else will. There are some very poignant pieces of advice hidden in these quotes that are just perfect for hanging them around your workplace. These quotes from black leaders can also be just the thing you need to gently push your workforce into being more aware of diversity and inclusion.

1. Booker T. Washington

I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.

2. Mae C. Jemison

Never be limited by other people's limited imaginations. If you adopt their attitudes, then the possibility won't exist because you'll have already shut it out... You can hear other people's wisdom, but you've got to re-evaluate the world for yourself.

3. Thurgood Marshall

In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute.

4. Barack Obama

Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.

5. Martin Luther King Jr

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

6. Frederick Douglass

If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will.

7. Michelle Obama

When they go low, we go high.

8. Ella Fitzgerald

They refuse to look for new ideas and new outlets, so they fall by the wayside… I'm going to try to find out the new ideas before the others do.

9. Toni Morrison

Definitions belong to the definers, not the defined.

10. Malcolm X

I am not a racist. I am against every form of racism and segregation, every form of discrimination. I believe in human beings and that all human beings should be respected as such, regardless of their color.

11. Harriet Tubman

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.

12. John Lewis

Ours is not the struggle of one day, one week, or one year. Ours is not the struggle of one judicial appointment or presidential term. Ours is the struggle of a lifetime, or maybe even many lifetimes, and each one of us in every generation must do our part.

13. Nikki Giovanni

I really don't think life is about the I-could-have-beens. Life is only about the I-tried-to-do. I don't mind the failure, but I can't imagine that I'd forgive myself if I didn't try.

14. Rosa Parks

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.

15. Michelle Obama

History has shown us that courage can be contagious, and hope can take on a life of its own.

16. Nelson Mandela

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

17. Russell Simmons

If you wake up deciding what you want to give versus what you're going to get, you become a more successful person. In other words, if you want to make money, you have to help someone else make money.

18. Katherine Johnson

  • I don't have a feeling of inferiority. Never had. I'm as good as anybody, but no better.

19. Oprah Winfrey

Every time you state what you want or believe, you're the first to hear it. It's a message to both you and others about what you think is possible. Don't put a ceiling on yourself.

20. Maya Angelou

You can only become accomplished at something you love. Don't make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can't take their eyes off you.

21. Chadwick Boseman

When you are deciding on next steps, next jobs, next careers, further education, you should rather find purpose than a job or a career. Purpose crosses disciplines. Purpose is an essential element of you. It is the reason you are on the planet at this particular time in history.

22. Franklin Thomas

One day our descendants will think it incredible that we paid so much attention to things like the amount of melanin in our skin or the shape of our eyes, or our gender instead of the unique identities of each of us as complex human beings.

23. A. Philip Randolph

Freedom is never given; it is won.

24. Jesse Owens

The battles that count aren't the ones for gold medals. The struggles within yourself - the invisible, inevitable battles inside all of us - that's where it's at.

25. Muhammad Ali

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.

26. Viola Davis

As black women, we're always given these seemingly devastating experiences — experiences that could absolutely break us. But what the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls the butterfly. What we do as black women is take the worst situations and create from that point.

27. Stacey Abrams

We will all, at some point, encounter hurdles to gaining access and entry, moving up, and conquering self-doubt, but on the other side is the capacity to own opportunity and tell our own story.

28. Rosalind Brewer

You can and should set your own limits and clearly articulate them. This takes courage, but it is also liberating and empowering and often earns you new respect.

29. Shonda Rhimes

Dreams are lovely but they are just dreams. Fleeting, ephemeral, pretty. But dreams do not come true just because you dream them. It's hard work that makes things happen. It's hard work that creates change.

30. Sheila Johnson

When I was younger, there was something in me. I had passion. I may not have known what I was going to do with that passion, but there was something, and I still feel it. It's this little engine that roars inside of me, and I just want to keep going and going.

31. Kobe Bryant

I'll do whatever it takes to win games, whether it's sitting on a bench waving a towel, handing a cup of water to a teammate, or hitting the game-winning shot.

32. Wilma Rudolph

Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us.

33. Franklin Thomas

One day our descendants will think it incredible that we paid so much attention to things like the amount of melanin in our skin or the shape of our eyes, or our gender instead of the unique identities of each of us as complex human beings.

34. Desmond Tutu

My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.

35. Ava DuVernay

When we're talking about diversity, it's not a box to check. It is a reality that should be deeply felt and held, and valued by all of us.

36. James Baldwin

If you know whence you came, there is really no limit to where you can go.

37. Karyn Parsons

Black history isn't a separate history. This is all of our history, this is American history, and we need to understand that. It has such an impact on kids and their values and how they view black people.

38. Aliko Dangote

I built a conglomerate and emerged the richest black man in the world in 2008, but it didn't happen overnight. It took me 30 years to get to where I am today. Youths of today aspire to be like me, but they want to achieve it overnight. It's not going to work. To build a successful business, you must start small and dream big. In the journey of entrepreneurship, tenacity of purpose is supreme.

39. Cyril Ramaphosa

No action is too small when it comes to changing the world… I'm inspired every time I meet an entrepreneur who is succeeding against all odds.

40. Kenneth Chenault

Dedicate yourself to a core set of values. Without them, you will never be able to find personal fulfillment, and you will never be able to lead effectively.

41. Dr. William Pickard

If you approach 100 people for seed capital, 99 of them may say no, you just need that one.

42. Reginald F. Lewis

It's a fact of life that progress is almost exclusively generated through people. If you're not sensitive to the needs of people within your organization or with whom you have to deal, you're not going to be effective.

43. Janice Bryant Howroyd

Discipline is not a dirty word. There is far more freedom and opportunity for creativity and success in enjoying discipline. Years ago, someone I very much respect told me the reason they were successful is that they embraced doing what other people resent or are reluctant to do.

44. Divine Ndhlukula

Success depends on employees. For me knowing and connecting with my employees is very important.

45. Majora Carter

If we are going to be part of the solution, we have to engage the problems.


Is there any other quote from black leaders that motivates you to get out of your rut at work? We'd love to hear from you so we can include your quote in our collection!

This article is written by Barasha Medhi who is a part of the marketing team at Vantage Circle. Barasha can be found either searching for interesting HR buzzwords to write about or looking at pictures of cozy Bel Air mansions. For any related queries, contact

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