20 Juneteenth Quotes That Will Inspire You

These Juneteenth quotes will spark your inner activist to go out and create a better, more equal future.

While Independence Day is nationally celebrated as the day Americans acquired their freedom, not everyone became free that day. Black Americans remained enslaved for 82 years after July 4, 1776. There is a long history of Juneteenth, including the Juneteenth flag, but to sum things up, Juneteenth celebrates the emancipation of enslaved Black Americans. The day is meant to remember the hardships that Black Americans faced, honor their achievements, and serve as a reminder that the work is far from over. These Juneteenth quotes will inspire you to keep fighting for equality and raise that Black Power fist high and proud.

1. “Hold those things that tell your history and protect them. During slavery, who was able to read or write or keep anything? The ability to have somebody to tell your story to is so important. It says: ‘I was here. I may be sold tomorrow. But you know I was here.’ ” —Maya Angelou

2. “Anytime anyone is enslaved, or in any way deprived of his liberty, if that person is a human being, as far as I am concerned he is justified to resort to whatever methods necessary to bring about his liberty again.” —Malcolm X

3. “Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.” — Abraham Lincoln 

Kwame Nkrumah quoterd.com, Getty Images

4. “Freedom is not something that one people can bestow on another as a gift. They claim it as their own and none can keep it from them.” —Kwame Nkrumah

5. “As Black women, we’re always given these seemingly devastating experiences—experiences that could absolutely break us. But what the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls the butterfly. What we do as Black women is take the worst situations and create from that point.” —Viola Davis

6. “There are still many causes worth sacrificing for, so much history yet to be made.” —Michelle Obama

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7. “If the cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. Because the goal of America is freedom, abused and scorned tho’ we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny.” —Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

8. “Slavery is no scholar, no improver; it does not love the whistle of the railroad; it does not love the newspaper, the mail-bag, a college, a book or a preacher who has the absurd whim of saying what he thinks; it does not increase the white population; it does not improve the soil; everything goes to decay.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

9. “I just don’t believe that when people are being unjustly oppressed that they should let someone else set rules for them by which they can come out from under that oppression.” —Malcolm X

10. “Now I’ve been free, I know what a dreadful condition slavery is. I have seen hundreds of escaped slaves, but I never saw one who was willing to go back and be a slave.” —Harriet Tubman

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11. “The flag that was the symbol of slavery on the high seas for a long time was not the Confederate battle flag, it was sadly the Stars and Stripes.” —Alan Keyes 

Coretta Scott King quoterd.com, Getty Images

12. “Struggle is a never-ending process. Freedom is never really won, you earn it and win it in every generation.” —Coretta Scott King

13. “I swear to the Lord I still can’t see why democracy means everybody but me.” —Langston Hughes

14. “Knowledge makes a man unfit to be a slave.” —Frederick Douglass

15. “You can’t separate peace from freedom, because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.” —Malcom X

16. “My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.” —Desmond Tutu

RELATED: Examples of White Privilege 

17. “Slavery is theft—theft of a life, theft of work, theft of any property or produce, theft even of the children a slave might have borne.” —Kevin Bales

Maya Angelou quoterd.com, Getty Images

18. “Won’t it be wonderful when Black history and Native American history and Jewish history and all of U.S. history is taught from one book. Just U.S. history.” —Maya Angelou

19. “Every year we must remind successive generations that this event triggered a series of events that one by one defines the challenges and responsibilities of successive generations. That’s why we need this holiday.” —Al Edwards

20. “We’re in denial of the African holocaust. Most times, people don’t want to talk about it. One is often restless or termed a racist just for having compassion for the African experience, for speaking truth to the trans-Atlantic and Arab slave trades, for speaking truth to the significant omission of our history. We don’t want to sit down and listen to these things, or to discuss them. But we have to.” —Ilyasah Shabazz

Now that you’ve been inspired by these Juneteenth quotes, check out these small ways you can fight racism every day.

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Emma Taubenfeld
Emma Taubenfeld is an assistant editor for Reader’s Digest who focuses on digital lifestyle topics such as memes, social media captions, pick-up lines, and cute pets. When she’s not working, you can find Emma reading corny young adult novels, creating carefully curated playlists, and figuring out how to spice up boxed mac and cheese.