7 Black History Month Quotes for Students, Plus Activities

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Illustration (featured from left to right): Abolitionist Harriet Tubman, Vice President Kamala Harris

Black Americans have made a huge impact on history not only with their actions, but also with their words. Recognizing great Black American voices is one way to honor Black History Month with students, broaden perspectives, and cultivate inclusivity in the classroom.

We were inspired to pull together seven Black History Month quotes for students to pair with classroom activities. We’ve included activities that will prompt your students to think more deeply about each person, their quote, and the impact of their words. Use these activities as part of your Black History Month curriculumor any time of year!

Black History Month Quotes for Elementary Students and Beyond (Grades 4 and Up)

Below, we share a mix of historical and contemporary Black voices to engage students. Have students connect one of the following activities to a quote from this list. Or, have students research a quote from a prominent Black figure on their own.

A few examples of iconic and recent figures to quote include civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., poet Amanda Gorman, talk show host Oprah Winfrey, and tennis player Serena Williams, among others. If you have any dancers in your classroom, be sure to take a look at this list of quotes from choreographer Alvin Ailey! These sources provide many quotes to consider, including some better aimed at an older audience. Pick ones that you will feel comfortable discussing and that your students will be able to analyze.

We’ve given you a head start with the following seven quotes from inspiring Black Americans.

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.—President Barack Obama, from his 2008 Super Tuesday speech
We have come too far together to ever turn back. So we must not be silent. We must stand up, speak up and speak out.—U.S. Representative John Lewis, from his 2012 Democratic National Convention speech
If there is no struggle, there is no progress.—Abolitionist Frederick Douglass, from his 1857 address on West India Emancipation
We have no right to sit silently by while the inevitable seeds are sown for a harvest of disaster to our children, black and white.—Author W.E.B. Du Bois, from The Souls of Black Folk
Of course laws will not eliminate prejudice from the hearts of human beings. But that is no reason to allow prejudice to continue to be enshrined in our laws—to perpetuate injustice through inaction.—U.S. Representative Shirley Chisholm, from her “I Am for the Equal Rights Amendment” speech
There are two things I’ve got a right to, and these are, Death or Liberty – one or the other I mean to have.—Abolitionist Harriet Tubman, from Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman
Even in dark times, we not only dream, we do. We not only see what has been, we see what can be.Vice President Kamala Harris, from her 2021 Inauguration speech

Activity 1: Start a Quote Discussion

Help students put a quote by a Black American in historical context. After choosing a quote to analyze, they can consider these questions: What do the words mean to them? Why did the person say this? Are their words still relevant today? Why or why not? Download the Quote Discussion Chart to help students gather their thoughts.

Quote Discussion Chart

Activity 2: Make an Inference

Challenge students to make an inference based on a quote of their choice. They can begin by imagining they are having a conversation with the individual who is quoted. How would they respond? What does the quotation tell them about the person who said these words? Based on the quote, what is one character trait that describes the person? Why did they choose that trait?

Activity 3: Inspire a Free Write

Download a poster featuring a quote from Vice President Kamala Harris or abolitionist Harriet Tubman. Display the poster in your classroom at the start of class; then challenge students to do a free write. Have they seen this quote before? What do they think it means? What does it mean to them? Have them spend 5–10 minutes writing. Invite students to share their ideas with the class.

Black History Month Posters

Download a poster of Vice President Kamala Harris

Download a poster of Harriet Tubman

Activity 4: Create a Poster

Have your students create their own posters using one of the quotes. What image best captures the quote? What colors capture the tone of the words? How should the quote appear on the page to maximize its impact?

Activity 5: Put a Quote in Context

Have students watch the video below about abolitionist Harriet Tubman. They might also read a biography to learn more about her life. How did Tubman help people who were enslaved? How did she make history? Then display Tubman’s quote above. Have students explain in a paragraph how these words reflected her life. To extend the activity, students can research a quote from another prominent Black figure and write a paragraph explaining how the words reflect that person’s life.

Whether you are planning full lessons or a month-long project to honor Black History Month, incorporating famous quotes from Black Americans into your curriculum gives students the opportunity to think deeper about the words of those who have made an indelible impact on history.

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For more ways to celebrate Black History Month with your students, check out:

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