In 1926, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History dubbed the second week of February Negro History Week. The date was meant to coincide with the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist Fredrick Douglass. In 1976, the week evolved into a month, and Black History Month was born. Each year, February is designated by the U.S. president as Black History Month. The long-held tradition aims to celebrate the achievements made by African Americans and to highlight the role Black people have played in America’s history.
Here are nine inspiring quotes by Black American leaders:
1. GEORGE WASHINGTON CARVER
George Washington Carver was born into slavery in the early 1860s, just before slavery was abolished in the aftermath of the Civil War. He became the first black student to study at Iowa State University and became a professor at Tuskegee University in Alabama. Carver was an agricultural scientist who wrote about methods for soil preservation and taught farmers uses crops such as peanuts and sweet potatoes instead of soil-depleting crops like cotton.
“I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.” – George Washington Carver
2. ROSA PARKS
Rosa Parks was an activist in the Civil Rights Movement who is best known for her role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. She garnered national attention when on December 1, 1955, she refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white passenger when the whites-only section had been filled up. Her arrest inspired a year-long boycott of the buses in Montgomery. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.
“Prayer and the Bible became a part of my everyday thoughts and beliefs. I learned to put my trust in God and to seek Him as my strength.” – Rosa Parks
3. FREDERICK DOUGLASS
Frederick Douglass was born into slavery in the late 1810s in Maryland. A slave master’s wife taught Douglass to read when he was 12 and he escaped from slavery in his late teens. He became a prominent voice in the abolitionist movement and a confidant to several Presidents.
“I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ: I, therefore, hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land.” – Frederick Douglass
4. DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.
Martin Luther King was a pastor and the most well-known leader of the Civil Rights Movement. He rose to prominence through his leadership during the Montgomery Bus Boycott and helped organize the March on Washington as well as the Selma to Montgomery march. King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. He was assassinated in Memphis on April 4, 1968.
“I still believe that standing up for the truth of God is the greatest thing in the world. This is the end of life. The end of life is not to be happy. The end of life is not to achieve pleasure and avoid pain. The end of life is to do the will of God, come what may.” – Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
5. HARRIET TUBMAN
Harriet Tubman was born into slavery in Maryland in 1822 but escaped in 1849. She was the most famous of the “conductors” on the Underground Railroad, helping 70 slaves to escape to freedom. She worked as a nurse and cook during the Civil War and also guided a raid which helped to liberate over 700 slaves.
“I always tole God, ‘I’m gwine [going] to hole stiddy on you, an’ you’ve got to see me through.’” – Harriet Tubman