23 Assata Shakur Quotes That Fight The Power

Assata Shakur peppers bits of wisdom throughout her novel of resistance, Assata, on everything from beauty to colonialism, from arrogance to sisterhood.

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The American government scapegoated individuals as martyrs in the 60s and 70s for causes they saw as threatening. In this case, it was the Black Liberation movement. When they eliminate the individual, they eliminate the cause (metaphorically speaking of course).

Assata Shakur was one of those scapegoats, placed in mens’ prisons, denied adequate health care before, during, and after her pregnancy, and relegated to solitary confinement for indefinite periods of time. Her autobiography tells her story as the so-called “Mother of the Black Liberation Army” (as the media called her) while pivoting between her childhood and her time fighting unjust charges brought against her by New York and New Jersey police departments, as well as the Federal Government.




Shakur peppers bits of wisdom throughout her novel of resistance, on everything from beauty to colonialism, from arrogance to sisterhood. Here are 23 quotes from Shakur’s novel Assata: An Autobiography that stick with you long after you read this sensational, heartbreaking novel.



1. On walls:

“I have been locked by the lawless./Handcuffed by the haters./Gagged by the greedy./And, if i know anything at all,/it’s that a wall is just a wall/and nothing more at all./It can be broken down.”

2. On her first nights in custody after being shot by police:

“The night crawls along. Nurses, doctors, and troopers. I am still scared, but i am just as angry and evil as i am scared.”

3. On sisterhood:

“When i read the book about Black women, i felt the spirits of those sisters feeding me, making me stronger. Black women have been struggling and helping each other to survive the blows of life since the beginning of time.”





4. On losing her close friend and BLA member, Zayd Shakur:

“You died./I cried./And kept on getting up./A little slower./And a lot more deadly.”

5. On racist beauty standards:

“We had been completely brainwashed and we didn’t even know it. We accepted white value systems and white standards of beauty and, at times, we accepted the white man’s view of ourselves. We had never been exposed to any other point of view or any other standard of beauty.”

6. On being a revolutionary:

“I am a Black revolutionary, and, as such, i am a victim of all the wrath, hatred, and slander that amerika is capable of. Like all other Black revolutionaries, amerika is trying to lynch me.”

7. On colonialism:

“They call us bandits, but it is not we who are robbing Africa, Asia, and Latin America of their natural resources and freedom while the people who live there are sick and starving. The rules of this country and their flunkies have committed some of the most brutal, vicious crimes in history. They are bandits.”




8. On motherhood:

“What had my mother and grandmother and great-grandmother thought when they brought their babies into this world? What had my ancestors thought when they brought their babies into this world, only to see them flogged and raped, bought and sold. I thought and thought.”

9. On getting pregnant while in prison:

“To me it was a miracle of all miracles. And deeply spiritual. The odds against this baby being conceived were so great it boggled my mind. And yet it was happening. It seemed so right, so beautiful, in surroundings that were so ugly.”

10. On the term “liberal”:

“As far as i’m concerned, “liberal” is the most meaningless word in the dictionary. History has shown me that as long as some white middle-class people can live high on the hog, take vacations to Europe, send their children to private schools, and reap the benefits of their white skin privileges, then they are “liberals.” But when times get hard and money gets tight, they pull off that liberal mask and you think you’re talking to Adolf Hitler.”

11. On awareness:

“When you don’t know what’s going on in the world you’re at a definite disadvantage.”



12. On deciding to make a difference:

“I feel lonely and serious. Something has been happening to me, a change that has been a long time coming. I want to be real.”

13. On the Black bourgeoisie:

“These Black went around acting as if there was no such thing as prejudice and that all you had to do was study and you could be president of the world.”




14. On life:

“Life was like a bus: you could either be a passenger and go along for the ride, or you could be the driver. I didn’t have the foggiest idea where i wanted to go, but i knew that i wanted to drive.”

15. On the American justice system:

“But i have been awaiting trial for two and one half years. And justice, in my eyesight, has not been the amerikan dream. It has been the amerikan nightmare.”

16. On American education:

“The schools we go to are reflections of the society that created them. Nobody is going to give you the education you need to overthrow them. Nobody is going to teach you your true history, teach you your true heroes, if they know that that knowledge will help set you free.”

17. On Black people’s struggle for justice:       

“Everywhere I turned, Black people were struggling, Puerto Ricans were struggling. It was beautiful. I love Black people, i don’t care what they are doing, but when Black people are struggling, that’s when they are most beautiful to me.”

 18. On arrogance:

“Some people let power go to their heads. They think that just because they have some kind of title in front of their name you’re supposed to bend over and kiss them on the ass. The only great people i have met have been modest and humble.”




19. On the media:

“Since we did not own the TV stations or newspapers, it was easy for the news media to portray us as monsters and terrorists.”

20. On her murder trial:

“Participating in the new jersey trial was unprincipled and incorrect. By participating, i participated in my own oppression. I should have known better and not lent dignity or credence to that sham.”

21. On not being able to see her daughter outside of prison:

“I can see that my child is suffering. It is stupid to ask what is wrong. She is four years old, and except for these pitiful little visits… she has never been with her mother.”

22. On her freedom after escaping to Cuba:

“Every day out in the street now, i remind myself that Black people in amerika are oppressed. It’s necessary that I do that. People get used to anything. The less you think about your oppression, the more your tolerance for it grows.”

23. On optimism:

“There was no doubt about it, our people would one day be free. The cowboys and bandits didn’t own the world.”




Honorable mention: Angela Davis on Assata’s sacrifices:

“I urge you to reflect on what it must mean for her to have been unable to attend her mother’s funeral or to visit with her new grandchild. As you follow her life story, you will discover a compassionate human being with an unswerving commitment to justice that travels easily across racial and ethnic lines, in and out of prison and across oceans and time.”

Honorable mention: Lennox S. Hinds on Assata’s prison conditions:

“In the history of New Jersey, no woman pretrial detainee or prisoner has ever been treated as she was, continuously confined in a men’s prison, under twenty-four-hour surveillance of her most intimate functions, without intellectual sustenance, adequate medical attention, and exercise, and without the company of other women fro all the years she was in their custody.”