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  • Writer's pictureKenneth Flakes, PE

Empowering Quotes from Eight Remarkable Black Women + Practical Tips to Apply Them

Shirley Chisholm, a Congresswoman from New York, looking at the list of numbers posted on a wall.
Shirley Chisholm, a Congresswoman from New York, looking at the list of numbers posted on a wall. (November 2, 1965)

Throughout history, the voices of Black women resound with resilience, wisdom, and empowerment. Their contributions have shaped our world and inspired generations, from abolitionists to civil rights activists to entrepreneurs and astronauts. In this exploration, we delve into the words of eight remarkable Black women, each offering insights that transcend time and continue to resonate with us today.

Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman, born Araminta Ross, was a formerly enslaved woman who became a conductor on the Underground Railroad and is credited with leading approximately 70 people to freedom.

"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*

Exploring Her Words: Tubman’s words emphasize the power of individual dreams and the potential within each of us to make a difference. It reminds us that even the most ambitious goals start with a single dreamer taking the first step.

Turning Inspiration into Actionable Steps: Identify your own big dream, no matter how audacious it may seem. Break it down into smaller, achievable steps and create a plan of action. Surround yourself with supportive people who believe in you and your dreams.

*Note: While often attributed to Harriet Tubman, Kate Clifford Larson, a historian and Tubman biographer, claims it does not have a verified source. Despite the unclear origin, the message captures the spirit of her remarkable life and continues to inspire countless individuals.

Madam C.J. Walker

Madam C.J. Walker, born Sarah Breedlove, was a prominent figure in the hair care industry and achieved entrepreneurial success as the first Black woman millionaire in America.

"I had to make my own living and my own opportunity. But I made it! Don't sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them." - Madam C.J. Walker

Exploring Her Words: This quote emphasizes personal responsibility and self-reliance in achieving success. It reminds us that opportunities often don't just appear and that we must actively create them.

Turning Inspiration into Actionable Steps: Take ownership of your life and your goals. Instead of passively waiting, actively seek opportunities aligning with your aspirations. Believe in yourself and your ability to create your success.

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou, a noted poet and advocate for civil rights, achieved widespread acclaim for her works like "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" and "Still I Rise".

"My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style." - Maya Angelou

Exploring Her Words: This quote encourages us to embrace life fully, enthusiastically pursuing our passions while cultivating compassion for ourselves and others. It reminds us that adding humor and personal style can enrich our experiences and interactions.

Turning Inspiration into Actionable Steps: Discover your passions and dedicate time to pursuing them wholeheartedly. Cultivate compassion through acts of kindness and understanding towards yourself and others. Find humor in everyday moments, even during challenges. Develop your unique style that reflects your personality and values.

Shirley Chisholm

Shirley Chisholm, an advocate for social justice, was the first Black woman elected to the United States Congress in 1968.

"You don't make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas." - Shirley Chisholm

Unpacking Her Wisdom: Chisholm’s words challenge the tendency to complain without acting. It emphasizes the importance of putting ideas into practice, even on a small scale, to achieve progress towards our goals.

Turning Inspiration into Actionable Steps: Instead of complaining about problems, identify a specific issue you care about. Brainstorm potential solutions and take the initiative to implement at least one, even if it's small. Remember, progress often starts with small but consistent actions.


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Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey, a self-made billionaire, is an acclaimed media mogul, actress, and philanthropist.

"Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down." - Oprah Winfrey

Exploring Her Words: Winfrey’s quote highlights the importance of true friendship, emphasizing the value of those who stand by you through thick and thin, not just during good times.

Turning Inspiration into Actionable Steps: Nurture genuine friendships based on shared values, mutual respect, and authentic connection. Be a supportive and reliable friend, offering your presence and support during difficult times, just as you would hope they would do for you.

Shonda Rhimes

Shonda Rhimes is an award-winning producer and screenwriter who is the creative force behind hit shows Grey's Anatomy, Scandal, and Bridgerton.

"You can waste your lives drawing lines. Or you can live your life crossing them." - Shonda Rhimes*

Unpacking Her Wisdom: Rhimes’ quote encourages us to challenge our limitations and embrace new experiences. It reminds us that life is about growth and exploration, not being confined by self-imposed boundaries.

Turning Inspiration into Actionable Steps: Identify limiting beliefs that may hold you back. Step outside your comfort zone by trying something new, whether a new hobby, skill, or experience. Embrace different perspectives and challenge yourself to grow beyond your perceived limitations.

*Note: While commonly associated with Shonda Rhimes, creator of Grey's Anatomy, it's important to note that Dr. Meredith Grey, a character from the show, speaks this quote.

Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama, an American attorney and author, served as the first Black First Lady of the United States from 2009 to 2017.

"When you've worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. You reach back and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed." - Michelle Obama

Unpacking Her Wisdom: Obama emphasizes paying it forward and using your success to uplift others. It encourages us to create a ripple effect of positive change by helping others achieve their

Turning Inspiration into Actionable Steps: Reflect on the opportunities, support, and mentorship you've received in your own life. Identify ways to give back to your community and empower others through volunteering, mentoring, advocating for important causes, or simply offering encouragement and support. Remember, true success involves not just reaching your own goals but also helping others on their journeys.

Mae Jemison

Dr. Mae Jemison is an accomplished engineer, physician, and the first Black woman to travel in space.

"Don’t let anyone rob you of your imagination, your creativity, or your curiosity. It’s your place in the world; it’s your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live.” - Dr. Mae Jemison

Exploring Her Wisdom: Mae Jemison's quote celebrates the individuality and autonomy inherent in each person's life journey. Guard your imagination, creativity, and curiosity zealously, and channel them to create your desired life.

Turning Inspiration into Actionable Steps: Embrace your uniqueness, pursue interests and hobbies that ignite your passion, and cultivate a sense of purpose and authenticity in everything you do.

Final Thoughts

As we reflect on these extraordinary Black women's words, let us find inspiration and a call to action. Their wisdom transcends generations, guiding us toward self-discovery, empowerment, and pursuing our dreams.

So, let's honor their legacies not just by remembering their achievements but by embracing their spirit of courage, resilience, and action. Let's go forth, fueled by their wisdom and our dreams, and create a world where everyone can thrive.


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Cover Photo Source: Wikipedia via Library of Congress. New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection.



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