Quotes on the Black Experience to Gain a Better Perspective

Despite any differences amongst African Americans, Juneteenth is a day to celebrate their shared hardships and Black experience; here are some highlights.

Author's Corner Black Voices Book Culture Diverse Voices Favorite Quotes Featured Authors
Gray background with three portraits at the foregroud. From left to right, portrait of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, portrait of Maya Angelou, and portrait of Toni Morrison.

Every year, June 19th is a day specially reserved to celebrate the freedom granted to African Americans across the country. The struggles, hardships, and hate that have been faced are used as fuel to inspire the next generations and honor past ones. Juneteenth is a day to unite and commemorate shared experiences in a way that recognizes the pain but focuses instead on recovery. Authors, singers, politicians, and the like have time and time again spoken on their feelings about the holiday and the Black experience as a whole, offering comfort to those who understand and new perspectives to those who don’t.

Here’s a compilation of some of the most touching, jarring, and authentic quotes regarding Juneteenth and the Black experience.

Black experience of the past

Hold those things that tell your history and protect them. During slavery, who was able to read or write or keep anything? The ability to have somebody to tell your story to is so important. It says: ‘I was here. I may be sold tomorrow. But you know I was here.’

Maya Angelou
Photo of Maya Angelou
IMAGE VIA MAYAANGELOU.COM

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.

John Lewis
Photo of John Lewis
IMAGE VIA AMAZON

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

James Baldwin
Portrait of James Baldwin
IMAGE VIA AMAZON

The cost of liberty is less than the price of repression.

W.E.B. Du Bois
Side profile portrait of W.E.B. Du Bois
IMAGE VIA AMAZON

In this country American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.

Toni Morrison
Photo of Toni Morrison
IMAGE VIA TONIMORRISONSOCIETY.ORG

… and of today

Juneteenth may mark just one moment in the struggle for emancipation, but the holiday gives us an occasion to reflect on the profound contributions of enslaved Black Americans to the cause of human freedom.

Jamelle Bouie
Portrait of Jamelle Bouie
IMAGE VIA JAMELLEBOUIE.NET

Even though the story has never been tidy, and Black folks have had to march and fight for every inch of our freedom, our story is nonetheless one of progress.

Michelle Obama
Photo of Michelle Obama
IMAGE VIA AMAZON

Racism should never have happened and so you don’t get a cookie for reducing it.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Portrait of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
IMAGE VIA CHIMAMANDA.COM

I wonder what would happen if all the big companies and celebrities who have showed support on social media came out and used their platform to let activists and protesters speak and be seen?

Lizzo
IMAGE VIA FLICKR/ANDY MORAN

For more from Black voices, click here!

For more Black authors, click here!

To learn more about Juneteenth, click here!

FEATURED IMAGE VIA BOOKSTR / LAUREN TABELLA