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.

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.
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