50 Motivational Quotes from Black Women on Leadership

50 Motivational Quotes from Black Women on Leadership

The desire to create a more just world for generations to come has motivated Black women to serve and lead. Throughout history, Black women have paved the way to the road directed towards the highway of justice and freedom. As they sojourned on this journey, they faced detours, roadblocks, and impasses. In spite of these temporary setbacks, black women have courageously led social change movements which seek to protect the rights and dignity of humankind.

Maria Stewart led the way by lifting her voice for justice by advancing the abolitionist movement. She was the first American woman of any race to publicly lecture. Lena O. Smith fought relentlessly to bury Jim Crow (segregation and discrimination) while also serving as the first black woman to practice law in Minnesota. Marian Wright Edelman  has committed her life’s work to ensuring no child is left behind by supporting early childhood education, creating access to health care, and ending child poverty.

Today, there is a beckoning call for Black women to continue forging new inroads to justice and freedom. Will you answer the call? This is a call to leadership. When I refer to leadership, this is not about a position or title. Instead, I am referring to using your influence. Each individual has the capacity to influence the world around them through the exercise of leadership. The exercise of leadership serves a vehicle to change the world day by day, moment by moment.

Change begins with the development of a collective vision of the future. Leaders inspire others to envision a world where justice and freedom reign supreme. This is a vision of fostering a global community that promotes love, justice, equity, and compassion as foundational shared values. This collection of quotes from Black women on leadership will motivate you to discover the leader within and make a difference in the world.

Promoting Justice and Freedom

  1. The function of freedom is to free someone else. Toni Morrison
  2. I freed a thousand slaves I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves. Harriet Tubman
  3. Freedom is people realizing they are their own leaders. Diane Nash
  4. I was going to do something for the black man of South if it would cost my life. Fannie Lou Hamer
  5. I’m no longer accepting the things I cannot change… I’m changing the things I cannot accept. Angela Davis
  6. As long as you keep a person down, some part of you has to be down there to hold him down, so it means you cannot soar as you otherwise might. Marian Anderson.
  7. Struggle is a never ending process. Freedom is never really won, you earn it and win it in every generation. Coretta Scott King

Taking Action

  1. Progress doesn’t happen all at once; it’s a slow grind. But a commitment to serving as an agent of positive change will bring us closer one step closer. Mitzi Miller
  2. Movements do not start in Washington, they do not start in Congress, they start with people who are dissatisfied with injustice…and we all have to be a part of that. Marian Wright Edelman
  3. We can say ‘Peace on Earth.’ We can sing about it, preach about it or pray about it, but if we have not internalized the mythology to make it happen inside us, then it will not be. Betty Shabazz
  4. It’s time for those of us who have a voice to speak out for life, for love and for justice… Chaka Khan
  5. Whatever our dreams, ideas or projects, we plant a seed, nurture it and then reap the fruits of our labor. Oprah Winfrey
  6. If we are going to win the struggle for freedom, we must invite and engage our young people. Bernice A. King
  7. The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any. Alice Walker
  8. I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear. Rosa Parks
  9. If you don’t like the way the world is, you change it. You have an obligation to change it. You just do it one step at a time. Marian Wright Edelman
  10. Youre not obligated to win. You’re obligated to keep trying to do the best you can every day. Marian Wright Edelman
  11. The greatest gift is not being afraid to question. Ruby Dee
  12. Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world. Harriet Tubman
  13. Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact, it’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration, it’s a dare. Laila Ali
  14. The first step of solving any problem is not to hide from it. The first step to any form of action is awareness. Mellody Hobson
  15. Nothing will work unless you do. Maya Angelou
  16. Until you dig a hole, you plant a tree, you water it and make it survive, you haven’t done a thing. You are just talking. Wangari Maathai
  17. You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines. Shirley Chisholm
  18. Right now, no matter where you are, you are a single choice away from a new beginning. Oprah Winfrey
  19. I have great belief in the fact that whenever there is chaos, it creates wonderful thinking. I consider chaos a gift. Septima Clark
  20. If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
  21. You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have. Sadly, too often creativity is smothered rather than nurtured. Maya Angelou
  22. Accept and acknowledge your own brilliance. Stop waiting for others to tell you how great you are! Believe it for yourself and about yourself. Iyanla Vanzant
  23. If excellence us on your radar, disable mediocrity. Let your best be your best. Patrice Register
  24. Nothing will work unless you do. Maya Angelou
  25. Don’t ever stop learning and improving your mind or you’re going to get left behind. The world is changing like a kaleidoscope right before our eyes. Marian Wright Edelman
  26. Challenges make you discover things about yourself that you never really knew. Cicely Tyson
  27. Don’t sabotage your own greatness by succumbing to failure. Terri McMillan
  28. It’s time for us to be comfortable with the uncomfortable conversation about race. If we truly believe in equal rights and equal opportunity in America, we need to have real conversations about this issue. We can’t be color blind, we have to be color brave. Mellody Hobson
  29. I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver. Maya Angelou
  30. Service is the rent that you pay for room on this earth. Shirley Chisholm
  31. Faith is the first factor in a life devoted to service. Without it, nothing is possible. With it, nothing is impossible. Mary McLeod Bethune
  32. I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. Maya Angelou
  33. The progress of the world will call for the best that all of us have to give. Mary McLeod Bethune
  34. My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return. Maya Angelou
  35. You receive from the world what you give to the world. Oprah Winfrey
  36. Truth is powerful and it prevails. Sojourner Truth
  37. Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. Because it’s only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your true potential. Barbara Jordan
  38. If we don’t like the way the world is, we can do our part to change it. Success is never guaranteed, but contributing to the struggle is a responsibility and a privilege. Marian Wright Edelman
  39. If we have the courage and tenacity of our forebears, who stood firmly like a rock against the lash of slavery, we shall find a way to do for our day what they did for theirs. Mary McLeod Bethune
  40. Women, if the soul of the nation is to be saved, I believe that you must become its soul. Coretta Scott King
  41. I didn’t break the rules, but I challenged the rules. Ella Baker
  42. Give people light and they will find a way. Ella Baker
  43. We who believe in freedom cannot rest. We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes. Ella’s Song (Sweet Honey in Rock)

Leaders must be willing to understand where they have been in order to know where they are headed. As you pause and reflect on each quote, I challenge you to begin thinking about: the women who have positively impacted your life. What lessons can you learn from their leadership legacy? How can you apply these lessons to your daily life? My grandmothers immediately come to mind. They taught me the importance of our shared humanity and common destiny which compelled me to join in the struggle for justice. What is your hands to make a difference in the world? For generations, Black women have recognized that within our hands is the power needed to challenge injustice, reform policies, and build strong communities. Now, our challenge is to use this power.

Speak Your Mind


Dr. Artika Tyner
Dr. Artika R. Tyner is a passionate educator, author, sought after speaker, and advocate for justice. At the University of St. Thomas College of Education, Leadership & Counseling, Dr. Tyner serves as a public policy/leadership professor. She trains graduate students to serve as social engineers who create new inroads to justice and freedom.