Black History Month: Lessons from Great Leaders

In February, North America and other countries celebrate the many accomplishments, innovations, and cultural triumphs of Black individuals during Black History Month. Though there were several precursors, Black History month was officially recognized during the U.S. bicentennial of 1976 by President Gerald Ford who urged everyone to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” In celebration, check out these inspiring quotes from some true trailblazers.

It is not light that we need, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.” – Frederick Douglas, social reformer, abolitionist, writer, and statesman

In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute.” – Thurgood Marshall, first Black U.S. Supreme Court Justice

Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.” – Booker T. Washington, educator, author, orator, and adviser to U.S. Presidents

A leader sees greatness in other people. He nor she can be much of a leader if all she sees is herself.” – Maya Angelou, author of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt, to offer a solution everybody can understand.” – Colin Powell, first Black U.S. Secretary of State

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., minister and civil rights activist

Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations.” – Dr. Mae Jemison, first Black woman in space

Power is nothing unless you can turn it into influence. When people talk about management style, they’re really talking about how someone uses power. I’ve been in positions where I had to be heavy-handed, and I’ve been in positions where I needed to bring people together and persuade them. But sometimes you have to make difficult decisions, and you have to make them stick.” – Condoleezza Rice, first Black woman to be U.S. Secretary of State

I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear.” —Rosa Parks, civil rights activist

There are two rules in life: Number 1, never quit! Number 2, never forget rule number one.” – Duke Ellington, acclaimed jazz pianist and composer

We all have dreams. In order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline and effort.” – Jesse Owens, Olympic Gold Medalist

What are your favorite quotes from trailblazing Black leaders? Who has inspired you in your career? Let us know in the comments section below!


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