I am America. I am the part you won’t recognize. But get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me.” —Muhammad Ali
“For 246 years, slavery was legal in America. It wasn’t made illegal until 154 years ago … It means slavery has been a part of America much longer than it hasn’t been a part of America.”— Tom McClimon, teacher at Fort Dodge Middle School.
For the 50 million students attending public school in America, how they are taught about America’s history of slavery and its deprivations is as fundamental as how they are taught about the Declaration of Independence and its core assertion that “all men are created equal.”
“The best way to make dreams come true is to wake up.” —Mae C. Jemison
“I had reasoned this out in my mind; there was one of two things I had a right to, liberty, or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other; for no man should take me alive; I should fight for my liberty as long as my strength lasted, and when the time came for me to go, the Lord would let them take me.” —Harriet Tubman
“Have a vision. Be demanding.”
“Freedom is never given; it is won.”
—A. Philip Randolph, civil rights activist
“The need for change bulldozed a road down the center of my mind.” —Maya Angelou
“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.” —Barack Obama
“I don’t want a Black History Month. Black history is American history.” —Morgan Freeman
”I swear to the Lord I still can’t see why democracy means everybody but me.” —Langston Hughes
“I’m not quite sure what freedom is, but I know damn well what it ain’t. How have we gotten so silly, I wonder.” —Assata Shakur
“I felt that one had better die fighting against injustice than to die like a dog or rat in a trap. I had already determined to sell my life as early as possible if attacked. I felt if I could take one lyncher with me, this would even up the score a little bit.” —Ida B. Wells
What a topical message for what will undoubtedly be known as a historical year. A pandemic that has killed 430,000 people — a disproportionate number of them Black Americans. A movement for racial justice that drove thousands to protest for months. A reckoning with history that has prompted the Pentagon to strip Confederate names from bases. It’s no wonder the words of poet Amanda Gorman, referencing the musical “Hamilton,” struck such a chord with her audience on Inauguration Day.
“You’re not to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.” —Malcolm X
“The cost of liberty is less than the price of repression.”
—W.E.B. Du Bois
“If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” —Shirley Chisholm
Black History Month is a time we pay tribute to the heroes and heroines of U.S. history and recognize the vast contributions they’ve made to American culture. To showcase their stories, The Washington Post compiled a selection of recently published stories and columns that represent Black excellence and triumph.
“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” —Alice Walker
“Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.” —Martin Luther King Jr.
This year’s theme, “The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity,” explores how the black family has been “reverenced, stereotyped, and vilified from the days of slavery to our own time.” The theme encompasses the individual black family and encourages “discussions on the nature and impact of parenting, childhood, marriage, gender norms, sexuality, and incarceration
“There is no vaccine for racism.” —Kamala Harris