45 Quotes from Black Leaders on Mindset, Progress, and Making an Impact

Happy February and Happy Black History Month, y’all!

I don’t know about you, but I find myself needing a little extra inspiration these days.  Like so many others, I’m coming off the high of starting a new year and settling back into old routines in my personal life.  And also like so many others, I have been transfixed watching the current state of politics and its effect on the American public.  For me personally, some moments have been downright horrifying.

But then I remember that throughout the arc of history, there have been people who are willing to fight for change.  People who have shared their gifts and sacrificed their time, their comfort, and sometimes even their lives to create change.  Change in society. Change in their communities. Change in their own personal lives.

So I put together this list of quotes from Black leaders on mindset, progress, and making an impact (even through being yourself). I also included quotes from some of my favorites that just make me smile a little bigger.  These people have transformed the ways I think, dream, work, stand up for myself, and dance (because what’s life without a dance party?!).  Some of these leaders you know well.  Others may not be as familiar, but rest assured: I believe in you and your ability to educate yourself and open up Google.

I hope these words of wisdom bring you as much peace and encouragement as they have given me in the past several days.  Feel free to share with others who might be inspired by these words!


If you don’t like something, change it.  If you can’t change it, change your attitude.
– Maya Angelou

Find the good. It’s all around you. Find it, showcase it and you’ll start believing in it.
– Jesse Owens

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.
– Oprah Winfrey

You can’t make decisions based on fear and the possibility of what might happen.
– Michelle Obama

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.
– Harriet Tubman

What you’re thinking is what you’re becoming.
– Muhammad Ali

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.
– Rosa Parks

The secret of life is to have no fear; it’s the only way to function.
– Stokely Carmichael

Instead of looking at the past, I put myself ahead twenty years and try to look at what I need to do now in order to get there then.
– Diana Ross

I have discovered in life that there are ways of getting almost anywhere you want to go, if you really want to go.
– Langston Hughes

If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.
– Audre Lorde

You are no better than anyone else, and no one is better than you.
– Katherine Johnson

I don’t have any time to stay up all night worrying about what someone who doesn’t love me has to say about me.
– Viola Davis

Magic lies in challenging what seems impossible.
– Carol Moseley Braun

I am lucky that whatever fear I have inside me, my desire to win is always stronger.
– Serena Williams


I got my start by giving myself a start.
– Madame CJ Walker

Start where you are, with what you have.  Make something of it and never be satisfied.
– George Washington Carver

I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.
– Frederick Douglass

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.
– Shonda Rhimes


You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining.  You make progress by implementing ideas.
– Shirley Chisholm

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.
– Barack Obama

I used to want the words ‘She tried’ on my tombstone. Now I want ‘She did it.’
– Katherine Dunham

We need, in every community, a group of angelic troublemakers.
– Bayard Rustin

Everything will change. The only question is growing up or decaying.
– Nikki Giovanni

There is never time in the future in which we will work out our salvation. The challenge is in the moment; the time is always now.
– James Baldwin

What’s the world for if you can’t make it up the way you want it?
– Toni Morrison

You don’t have to be one of those people that accepts things as they are. Every day, take responsibility for changing them right where you are.

– Cory Booker

If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow.
– Alice Walker

The progress of the world will call for the best that all of us have to give.
– Mary McLeod Bethune


If you are fortunate to have opportunity, it is your duty to make sure other people have those opportunities as well.
– Kamala Harris

A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.
– Jackie Robinson

You never know how or when you’ll have an impact, or how important your example can be to someone else.
– Denzel Washington

Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen.
– Michael Jordan

You never know which experiences of life are going to be of value . . . You’ve got to leave yourself open to the hidden opportunities.
– Robin Roberts

Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations.
– Dr. Mae Jamison

There’s always something to suggest that you’ll never be who you wanted to be. Your choice is to take it or keep on moving.
– Phylicia Rashad

I find freedom sexy. I find freedom so sexy, I can’t even explain it to you. You wake up every day and feel like you can do anything.
– Prince

You can be the lead in your own life.
–  Kerry Washington

Power is not given to you.  You have to take it.
– Beyonce

One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation.
– Arthur Ashe

Sometimes you’ve got to let everything go – purge yourself. If you are unhappy with anything… whatever is bringing you down, get rid of it. Because you’ll find that when you’re free, your true creativity, your true self comes out.
– Tina Turner

What other quotes would you add to this list? Share in the comments so we can continue to encourage each other!


This post was originally published at lmariemoss.com and republished here with permission.


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