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Blacks

  • Among the thousand white persons, I am a dark rock surged upon, and overswept.

  • Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It's beyond me.

    • Zora Neale Hurston,
    • "How It Feels to Be Colored Me" (1928), in Alice Walker, ed., I Love Myself When I Am Laughing ... And Then Again When I Am Looking Mean and Impressive ()
  • I'm sick of seeing and touching / Both sides of things / Sick of being the damn bridge for everybody.

    • Kate Rushin,
    • "The Bridge Poem," in Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa, eds., This Bridge Called My Back ()
  • How can you be more subject; black woman in a white man's world?

  • Raising Black children — female and male — in the mouth of a racist, sexist, suicidal dragon is perilous and chancy. If they cannot love and resist at the same time, they will probably not survive.

  • It is not the destiny of Black America to repeat white America's mistakes. But we will, if we mistake the trappings of success in a sick society for the signs of a meaningful life.

    • Audre Lorde,
    • in Mari Evans, ed., Black Women Writers (1950-1980) ()
  • As a Black lesbian feminist comfortable with the many different ingredients of my identity, and a woman committed to racial and sexual freedom from oppression, I find I am constantly being encouraged to pluck out some one aspect of myself and present this as the meaningful whole, eclipsing or denying the other parts of self. But this is a destructive and fragmenting way to live.

    • Audre Lorde,
    • "Age, Race, Class, and Sex," speech (1980), Sister Outsider ()
  • Every Black woman in America lives her life somewhere along a wide curve of ancient and unexpressed angers.

  • There are those who believe Black people possess the secret of joy and that it is this that will sustain them through any spiritual or moral or physical devastation.

  • ... the drums of Africa still beat in my heart. They will not let me rest while there is a single Negro boy or girl without a chance to prove his worth.

  • What does the Negro want? His answer is very simple. He wants only what other Americans want. He wants opportunity to make real what the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and the Bill of Rights say, what the Four Freedoms establish. While he knows these ideals are open to no man completely, he wants only his equal chance to obtain them.

  • Either black people end up being the best in sports, or else it's show business. You know, we all got rhythm.

    • Diana Ross,
    • 1975, in Ed Ifkovic, Diana's Dogs: Diana Ross and the Definition of a Diva ()
  • We were Black Americans in West Africa, where for the first time in our lives the color of our skin was accepted as correct and normal.

  • Blacks concede that hurrawing, jibing, jiving, signifying, disrespecting, cursing, even outright insults might be acceptable under particular conditions, but aspersions cast against one's family call for immediate attack.

  • ... when you get up in the morning, you merely put on your clothes. When a colored man gets up in the morning, he puts on his armor.

  • I marvel at the many ways we, as black people, bend but do not break.

    • Kristin Hunter,
    • in Claudia Tate, ed., Black Women Writers at Work ()
  • i'm gonna put black angels in all the books and a black Christ-child in Mary's arms. / i'm gonna make black bunnies black fairies black santas ...

    • Mari Evans,
    • "Vive Noir," I Am a Black Woman ()
  • Who / can be born / black / and not exult!

    • Mari Evans,
    • "My Father's Passage," I Am a Black Woman ()
  • Black people cannot and will not become integrated into American society on any terms but those of self-determination and autonomy.

  • The colored woman of to-day occupies, one may say, a unique position in this country. In a period of itself transitional and unsettled, her status seems one of the least ascertainable and definitive of all the forces which make for our civilization. She is confronted by both a woman question and a race problem ...

  • Far as I'm concerned, friendship between black and white don't mean that much 'cause it usually ain't on a equal basis. ... Maybe one day whites and blacks can be real friends, but right now the country ain't built that way.

  • I tell you, Joe, little Willie said, / Black is as tired as it is beautiful.

  • I adore my black skin and my kinky hair. The Negro hair is more educated than the white man's hair. Because with Negro hair, where you put it, it stays. It's obedient. The hair of the white, just give one quick movement, and it's out of place. It won't obey. If reincarnation exists I want to come back black.

  • Life is just like a book. Only after you've read it do you know how it ends. It is when we are at the end of life that we know how our life ran. Mine, until now, has been black. As black as my skin. Black as the garbage dump where I live.

  • I try to write each piece in the language of the piece, so that I'm not using the same language from piece to piece. I may be using ten or twenty languages. That multiplicity of language and the use of words is African in tradition. And black writers have definitely taken that up and taken it in. It's like speaking in tongues. It may sound like gibberish to somebody, but you know it's a tongue of some kind. Black people have this. We have the ability as a race to speak in tongues, to dream in tongues, to love in tongues.

  • We real cool. We / Left school. We / Lurk late. We / Strike straight. We / Sing sin. We / Thin gin. We / Jazz June. We / Die soon.

  • I know that the Black emphasis must be not against white but FOR Black.

    • Gwendolyn Brooks,
    • "Dreams of a Black Christmas," Report From Part One: An Autobiography ()
  • As a blackwoman / every act is a personal act / every act is a political act.

  • As a blackwoman / the bearing of my child / is a political act.

  • Any woman who has a great deal to offer the world is in trouble. And if she's a black woman, she's in deep trouble.

    • Hazel Scott,
    • in Margo Jefferson, "Great (Hazel) Scott!" Ms. ()
  • Black people are the only segment in American society that is defined by its weakest elements. Every other segment is defined by its highest achievement. We have to turn that around.

  • ... I belong to this race, and when it is down I belong to a down race; when it is up I belong to a risen race.

  • Collectively black people remain rather silent about representations of whiteness in the black imagination. As in the old days of racial segregation where black folks learned to 'wear the mask,' many of us pretend to be comfortable in the face of whiteness only to turn our backs and give expression to intense levels of discomfort. Especially talked about is the representation of whiteness as terrorizing. ... Looking past stereotypes to consider various representations of whiteness in the black imagination, I appeal to memory, to my earliest recollections of ways these issues were raised in black life. Returning to memories of growing up in the social circumstances created by racial apartheid, to all black spaces on the edges of town, I reinhabit a location where black folks associated whiteness with the terrible, the terrifying, the terrorizing. White people were regarded as terrorists, especially those who dared to enter that segregated space of blackness. ... Even though it was a long time ago ... associations of whiteness with terror and the terrorizing remain. Even though I live and move in spaces where I am surrounded by whiteness, there is no comfort that makes the terrorism disappear. All black people in the United States, irrespective of their class status or politics, live with the possibility that they will be terrorized by whiteness.

  • It is an incontrovertible truth that there is no such thing as an unmixed black on the American continent.

  • Fiction is of great value to any people as a preserver of manners and customs — religious, political and social. It is a record of growth and development from generation to generation. No one will do this for us; we must ourselves develop the men and women who will faithfully portray the inmost thoughts and feelings of the Negro with all the fire and romance which lie dormant in our history ...

  • Black people are nature, they possess the secret of joy ...

  • The most fundamental truth to be told in any art form, as far as Blacks are concerned, is that America is killing us.

    • Sonia Sanchez,
    • in Mari Evans, ed., Black Women Writers (1950-1980) ()
  • To be a colored man in America ... and enjoy it, you must be greatly daring, greatly stolid, greatly humorous and greatly sensitive. And at all times a philosopher ...

  • Dark hair, dark skin / These are the dominant measures of / my sense of beauty.

    • Gloria C. Oden,
    • "The Way It Is," in James E. Miller et al., Question and Form in Literature ()
  • Nigger is a tame-cat word when we uses it ourselves ag'in' ourselves, and a wild-cat word when it comes jumpin' in at us from the outside.

  • ... I really hope no white person ever has cause / to write about me / because they never understand / Black love is Black wealth and they'll / probably talk about my hard childhood / and never understand that / all the while I was quite happy.

  • I think one of the nicest things that we created as a generation was just the fact that we could say, Hey, I don't like white people.

  • Being Black and poor is, I think, radically different from being anything else and poor. Poor, to most Blacks, is a state of mind. Those who accept it are poor; those who struggle are middle class.

  • It's always seemed to me that black people's grace has been with what they do with language. In Lorrain, Ohio, when I was a child, I went to school with and heard the stories of Mexicans, Italians, and Greeks, and I listened. I remember their language, and a lot of it is marvelous. But when I think of things my mother or father or aunts used to say, it seems the most absolutely striking thing in the world.

  • ... there is an incredible amount of magic and feistiness in black men that nobody has been able to wipe out. But everybody has tried.

  • Anything I have ever learned of any consequence, I have learned from Black people. I have never been bored by any Black person, ever ...

    • Toni Morrison,
    • in Roseann P. Bell, Bettye J. Parker, and Beverly Guy-Sheftall, eds., Sturdy Black Bridges ()
  • It is utterly exhausting being Black in America — physically, mentally, and emotionally. While many minority groups and women feel similar stress, there is no respite or escape from your badge of color.

  • The way I was taught, being black was a plus, always. Being a human being, being in America, and being black, all three were the greatest things that could happen to you. The combination was unbeatable.

  • I am here, and you will know that I am the best and will hear me. The color of my skin or the kink of my hair or the spread of my mouth has nothing to do with what you are listening to.

    • Leontyne Price,
    • in Michael Walsh, "What Price Glory, Leontyne!" Time ()
  • usta be young usta be gifted — still black.

  • On the road to equality there is no better place for blacks to detour around American values than in foregoing its example in the treatment of its women and the organization of its family life.

  • When we finally stop asking America to love us and begin to love ourselves, we will prosper as a people.

    • Bebe Moore Campbell,
    • in Paula L. Woods and Felix H. Liddell, eds., I Hear a Symphony: African Americans Celebrate Love ()
  • Black must become beautiful again, and this time we must mean it.

    • Bebe Moore Campbell,
    • in Paula L. Woods and Felix H. Liddell, eds., I Hear a Symphony: African Americans Celebrate Love ()
  • The first thing you do is to forget that i'm Black. / Second, you must never forget that i'm Black.

    • Pat Parker,
    • "For the White Person Who Wants to Know How to Be My Friend," Movement in Black ()
  • I am a child of America / a step child / raised in the back room ...

  • ... black isn't beautiful and it isn't ugly — black is! It's not kinky hair and it's not straight hair — it just is.

  • she never wanted / no never once / did she wanna / be white/to pass / dreamed only of bein darker.

    • Mary Hope Lee,
    • "on not bein," in Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa, eds., This Bridge Called My Back ()
  • Dear Non-American Black, when you make the choice to come to America, you become black. Stop arguing. Stop saying I'm Jamaican or I'm Ghanaian. America doesn't care.

  • ...'oppression olympics' is what smart liberal Americans say, to make you feel stupid and to make you shut up. But there is an oppression olympics going on. American racial minorities — blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and Jews — all get shit from white folks, different kinds of shit, but shit still. Each secretly believes that it gets the worst shit. ... However, all the others think they're better than blacks because, well, they're not black.

  • The imperative is clear: Either we will make history or remain the victims of it.

  • Not that there's anything inherently horrible about making a mistake, but when you're a Negro in America it's usually not just you who's making the mistake. It's y'all, the race, black folks in toto.

  • I am convinced that the colored people are the only group in the United States that, under all circumstances, are kind and polite by nature.

  • I just wanta say just gotta say something / bout those beautiful beautiful beautiful outasight / black men / with they afros / walking down they street / is the same ol danger / but a brand new pleasure.

  • Childhood remembrances are always a drag / if you're Black.

  • Seem like God don't see fit to give the black man nothing but dreams — but He did give us children to make them dreams seem worthwhile.

  • Though it be a thrilling and marvellous thing to be merely young and gifted in such times, it is doubly so — doubly dynamic — to be young, gifted and black.

  • Black folk, a lot of us lived as victims in a certain part of our history. And we had to really erase that tape. We're not victims. We are citizens.

  • No one color can describe the various and varied complexions in our group. They range from the deep black to the fairest white with all the colors of the rainbow thrown in for good measure. When twenty or thirty of us meet, it is as hard to find three or four with the same complexion as it would be catch greased lightning in a bottle.

  • We are the wrong people of / the wrong skin in the wrong continent and what / in the hell is everybody being reasonable about ...

  • There is a man who exists as one of the most popular objects of leadership, legislation, and quasi-literature in the history of all men ... This man, that object of attention, attack, and vast activity, cannot make himself be heard, let alone to be understood. He has never been listened to ... That man is Black and alive in white America where the media of communication do not allow the delivery of his own voice, his own desires, his own rage.

  • 'Mos anytime you see whiteman spose to fight each other an' you not white, well you know you got trouble, because they blah-blah loud about Democrat or Republican an' they huffin' an' puff about democracy someplace else but relentless, see, the real deal come down evil on someday don' have no shirt an' tie, somebody don' live in no whiteman house no whiteman country.

  • The blues records of each decade explain something about the philosophical basis of our lives as black people. ... Blues is a basis of historical continuity for black people. It is a ritualized way of talking about ourselves and passing it on.

  • You have to assess every situation that you're in and you have to decide, is this happening because I'm black? Is this happening because I'm a woman? Or is this happening because this is how it happens?

  • I am colored but I offer nothing in the way of extenuating circumstances except the fact that I am the only Negro in the United States whose grandfather on the mother's side was not an Indian chief.

  • ... I hate it when, after I let a white person know they've said something racist, I end up having to listen for hours to their life.

  • [On being asked what Negroes want now:] My God, what do we want? What does any human being want? Take away an accident of pigmentation, of a thin layer of our outer skin, and there is no difference between me and anyone else. All we want is for that trivial difference to make no difference.

  • For the hundredth time she marveled at the gradations within this oppressed race of hers. A dozen shades slid by. There was sooty black, shiny black, taupe, mahogany, bronze, copper, gold, orange, yellow, peach, ivory, pinky white, pastry white. There was yellow hair, brown hair, black hair; straight hair, straightened hair, curly hair, crinkly hair, woolly hair. She saw black eyes in white faces, brown eyes in yellow faces, gray eyes in brown faces, blue eyes in tan faces. Africa, Europe, perhaps with a pinch of Asia, in a fantastic motley of ugliness and beauty, semi-barbaric, sophisticated, exotic, were here.

    • Nella Larsen,
    • "Quicksand" (1928), An Intimation of Things Distant ()
  • At times we feel wounded, hurt, disappointed, disgusted, resentful, sick of it all. At other times we feel skeptical, outraged, robbed, beaten. We chafe, hate, overlook. Then again we feel like ignoring, defying and fighting for every right that belongs to us as human beings.

  • I may be brown as a berry, but that's only secondary, / You can't tell the difference after dark.

    • Alberta Hunter,
    • "You Can't Tell the Difference After Dark," Downhearted Blues ()
  • For though I'm black, yet am I also fair / and in my mortal form, Thine doth appear.

  • Black people's music is in a class by itself and always has been. There's nothing like it. The reason for that is because it was not tampered with by white people. It was not on the media. It was not anywhere except where black people were. And it is one of the art forms in which black people decided what is good in it. Nobody told them. What surfaced and what floated to the top, were the giants and the best.

  • Blacks are the repository for the American fear of crime.

  • The media wants to call them riots, but they’re uprisings. Why should black people behave well to get their rights? White people don’t behave and they get all the rights they want.