Beyond the Bio

Words of Inspiration for Black History Month

Words of Inspiration for Black History Month

In honor of Black History Month, we are sharing the words of civil rights activists, authors, poets and lawyers who have inspired us. We hope these words will inspire you as you reflect, honor and celebrate this important month.

Black History Month began as a week-long celebration in 1926 by historian Carter G. Goodson and has grown into an annual celebration recognizing the accomplishments of African Americans throughout history. Fifty years after the first celebration, President Gerald Ford first recognized Black History Month as a national celebration. Every U.S. President since has proclaimed February as Black History Month.

First, this poem submitted by attorney Linda Bond Edwards, written by Benjamin E. Mays (1804-1984). A Baptist minister and educator who is credited for laying the intellectual foundations of the American Civil Rights movement, Benjamin’s teachings and writings focused on Black self-determination and social justice through nonviolence and civil resistance. He was the sixth president of Morehouse College, a historically Black institution of higher learning in Atlanta, Georgia, where he served for nearly 30 years. His insights inspired and mentored many influential activists, including Martin Luther King, Jr.

Life is Just a Minute
I’ve only just a minute,
Only sixty seconds in it.
Forced upon me, can’t refuse it,
Didn’t seek it, didn’t choose it,
But it’s up to me to use it.
I must suffer if I lose it,
Give an account if I abuse it,
Just a tiny little minute,
But eternity is in it.
–Benjamin E. Mays

It’s hard to imagine Black History without the work and inspiration of Martin Luther King, Jr., (1929-1968). Perhaps the most prominent leader of the modern American Civil Rights Movement, he used the power of words and acts of nonviolent resistance to achieve and inspire seemingly-impossible goals. Two of his famous quotes were shared by Dick Caldwell, one of RumbergerKirk’s founding partners and Karen Garcia, Director of Human Resources and Legal Recruiting.

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
Martin Luther King, Jr., The Trumpet of Conscience, Steeler Lecture, November 1967

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” —Martin Luther King Jr., “Loving Your Enemies,” Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, November 1957

Our next quote of inspiration was shared by partner Peter Tepley, who also serves as the Chair of RumbergerKirk’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee. He shared the words of Fannie Lou Hamer (1917-1977), voting and women’s rights activist and community organizer. She was involved in efforts to register African American voters in Mississippi in the 1960’s during which she was subjected to a near fatal beating in a Mississippi jail. She gained national attention when she was part of a challenge by the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party to become the state’s official delegation at the 1964 Democratic convention.

“Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”
-Fannie Lou Hamer

RumbergerKirk Director of Marketing Marisa Eubanks shared a quote from author Maya Angelou (1928-2014). An acclaimed American poet, storyteller, activist, and autobiographer, Maya’s 1969 memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, made literary history as the first nonfiction bestseller by a Black woman.

“If you’re always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.”
Maya Angelou

In a world where change is the constant, our final inspirational quote is from Constance Baker Motley (1921-2005), U.S. District Judge, Southern District of New York. The first African American woman to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court and the first to serve as a federal judge.

“Something which we think is impossible now is not impossible in another decade.”
Constance Baker Motley