7 Quotes from African American Writers for MLK Day

Words. As writers, we pound them out by the minute, fuss over every adjective, and worry over every comma. In fact we go through so many of them that they sometimes begin to feel meaningless. But if there was ever a person to remind us of how incredibly powerful words can be, Martin Luther King, Jr., is it.

mlk day

His words, both spoken and written, ignited a revolution that changed the world. It’s right that King is honored today for all he did for this country and for equality among races. He’s been a major leader for civic rights—a fight that has come a long way, but is not over.

Long before and ever since King, many strong, beautiful, and wise voices have contributed to this fight. Many of those voices are within the author community. In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, here are some of those inspiring quotes from African American authors:

mlk day

Image by Cliff

“Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence; does more than represent the limits of knowledge; it limits knowledge.”

—Toni Morrison, 1993 Nobel speech

I am an invisible man...

Image by jim_giza

“I am an invisible man … I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids—and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.”

—Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

Image by Virginia DeBolt

Image by Virginia DeBolt

“Healing begins where the wound was made.”

—Alice Walker, The Way Forward Is with a Broken Heart

Image by John Flannery

Image by John Flannery

“Herein lies the tragedy of the age: not that men are poor—all men know something of poverty; not that men are wicked—who is good? Not that men are ignorant—what is truth? Nay, but that men know so little of men.”

–W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk

If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform one million realities

Image by York College ISLGP

“If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform one million realities.”

—Maya Angelou, The Heart of a Woman


Image by TradingCardsNPS

“When you do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.”

–George Washington Carver


Image by Meagan

“There are times in life when, instead of complaining, you do something about your complaints.”

–Rita Dove

Do you have a favorite African American Author? Let us know in the comments.


Choose one of these inspiring quotes, and use it as a writing prompt. Take at least 15 minutes to begin a story based on it with a theme of freedom, equality, and/or civil rights. Don’t forget to share your practice in the comments section.

About Emily Wenstrom

By day, Emily Wenstrom, is the editor of short story website wordhaus, author social media coach, and freelance content marketing specialist. By early-early morning, she is E. J. Wenstrom, a sci-fi and fantasy author whose first novel Mud will release in March 2016.

  • When I was in grade school about a hundred years ago, my teacher read us a fascinating book about Mary McLeod Bethune, an amazing African American woman hardly anyone seems to know about. Here’s one of my favorite quotes of hers: The true worth of a race must be measured by the character of its womanhood.
    You can learn more about Bethune at

    Deena Nataf

    • LaCresha Lawson

      Very nice. I learned about her in school. There is a school named in her honor. Thank you.

    • Trudi McKinney

      Thanks for this post. It prompted me to do a little research, since I was not familiar with her. What an inspiration she was and still is.

  • LaCresha Lawson

    Those were beautiful. I tell my children that there are many people who fight for truth, justice, and freedom. I don’t celebrate just one person. I celebrate all of them.

  • Trudi McKinney

    “Healing begins where the wound was made.”

    The wounds that we have were made back in the Garden of Eden”. I’m sure most of you have heard the Bible story about Adam, Eve and the serpent. If you haven’t you should read it. It’s a great read, and it’s found in the book of Genesis. It tells about how everything was perfect for awhile because there was no sin or evil. Then Satan, disguised as a serpent, came and messed things up. He tempted Adam and Eve to sin and because of that we are all sinners now, and have to put up with all kinds of junk. Thankfully, many years later, healing began when Jesus came to fix things. He was actually God Himself but He chose to put on the cloak of humanity and live down here for awhile. He taught us how to live and then was punished and died for us. He had to die for us because that is the only way that we are going to get to heaven. God is too pure too look on sin, so Jesus offered himself as an atonement. I looked up atonement and it means to make amends for. If we accept His cloak of salvation we can go to heaven. He also heals us here on earth. In the process of getting to know Jesus, I have learned to hear His voice and His truths heal me. Life on earth will never be perfect, but I have a best friend who always has my back.. He wants to have yours too.

  • DiyaSaini

    “When you did common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.” addresed George to the entire crowd assembled there. Crystal like water, I still can reminisce the entire march. Emotions touched the sky, flags held in the hand, flagged against the wind flaring it deeper with every step. Peaceful-Protest was on our agenda, which was eyed with preening eyes by the authority. We were scheduled to halt at the gates of the court, to hand over our silent prayer sealed by everyone’s sign.

    Watchful eyes were following us everywhere, the court gates were fenced before & beyond our reach. Reaching at a point closest to the court, George turned back waving the crowd to grow silent. Few of us accompanied George till where the authority didn’t feel threatened. George humbly requested to see the Judge, which before he could finish, was sternly refused.

    He knew the journey towards a better world has just begun. “How many sacrifices will it demand?”…was something he was not able to comprehend….

  • DiyaSaini

    Emily initially the idea of freedom, equality or civil rights was a turn off for me. I’m happy you put me into it. I must have made several errors, but it was worth a try…