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African American Voices on Education


Education Quotes from Famous African AmericansIn celebration of Black History Month, we would like to share some strong voices and quotes on education from the African American community.


"The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you."
~ B. B. King



"A little learning, indeed, may be a dangerous thing, but the want of learning is a calamity to any people."

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~ Frederick Douglass, Address, Washington, D.C



"In a global economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity--it is a prerequisite. And yet, we have one of the highest high school dropout rates of any industrialized nation. And half of the students who begin college never finish. This is a prescription for economic decline.

So tonight, I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. This can be community college or a four-year school; vocational training or an apprenticeship. But every American will need to get more than a high school diploma. And dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It's not just quitting on yourself, it's quitting on your country. That's why we will provide the support necessary for all young Americans to complete college and meet a new goal: By 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world."
~ Barack Obama, 2009 State of the Union address



I think going to college for that one year was probable the best thing I have ever done.
~ Carmelo Anthony



“Success doesn’t come to go to it."

~ Marva Collins, African American Educator



"Let’s not play these kids cheap; let’s find out what they have. What do they have that is a strength? What do they have that you can approach and build a bridge upon? Education is all a matter of building bridges, it seems to me. Environment is bouncing everything off everybody in this country…. The question is how can you relate the environment to yourself?”

~ Ralph Ellison, “What These Children Are Like Lecture” 1963



“I realize that not every youth gets an equal chance at becoming successful. Some never get a chance at all. And not every young person believes that tomorrow can be better than today or that they deserve a chance to be successful.


It is not right that with all our resources every young person is not afforded the opportunity to be the best they can be if they want to.


Our communities are hurting. Our systems need fixing. We can’t wait on the government, institutions, social programs and policies to meet the needs of our communities. It is in our hands.”

~ Ludacris



“You are young, gifted, and Black. We must begin to tell our young, There's a world waiting for you, Yours is the quest that's just begun.”
~ James Weldon Johnson quote



"My mother said I must always be intolerant of ignorance but understanding of illiteracy. That some people, unable to go to school, were more educated and more intelligent than college professors."

~ Maya Angelou



"To save man from the morass of propaganda, in my opinion, is one of the chief aims of education. Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction....

The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society."
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., The Purpose of Education



"Books were my pass to personal freedom. I learned to read at age three, and soon discovered there was a whole world to conquer that went beyond our farm in Mississippi."

~ Oprah Winfrey



"Education is for improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and world better than you found it."

~ Marian Wright Edelman,  founder and president of The Children's Defense Fund



“I don’t know what intelligence is. But this I do know, both from life and from literature: whenever you reduce human life to two plus two equals four, the human element within the human animal says, "I don’t give a damn." You can work on that basis, but the kids cannot. If you can show me how I can cling to that which is real to me, while teaching me a way into the larger society, then I will not only drop my defenses and my hostility, but I will sing your praises and help you to make the desert bear fruit.”

~ Ralph Ellison, “What These Children Are Like Lecture” 1963



"If they took the idea that they could escape poverty through education, I think it would make a more basic and long-lasting change in the way things happen. What we need are positive, realistic goals and the willingness to work. Hard work and practical goals."
~ Kareem Abdul-Jabbar



Without education, you are not going anywhere in this world.
~ Malcolm X


Share your favorite quotes and voices on education in the comments section!

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