90 Powerful Civil Rights Quotes Striding Towards Equality

The fight for civil rights is an integral part of American history, from the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s to the recent Black Lives Matter movement.

The civil rights quotes below feature intriguing words from activists, politicians, authors, and more. 

What do you know about civil rights? 

A world that prioritizes equality is a dream for millions of Americans across the nation.

Throughout history, many different groups have fought against society and the American government for their civil rights.

Each works for the possibility that the Declaration of Independence’s most well-known statement, “All men are created equal”, will finally come to fruition.

In this article, we’re going to learn more about civil rights from many different perspectives. 

Take a deeper look into the fight for civil rights by reading the quotes below. 

Civil rights quotes on equality

1. “School choice is the civil rights issue of the 21st century.” – Ted Cruz

civil rights quotes about school choice

2. “My grandmother had been a part of the civil rights movement.” – Killer Mike

civil rights quotes about my grandmother had been a part of the civil rights movement

3. “The only real prison is fear, and the only real freedom is freedom from fear.” – Aung San Suu Kyi

civil rights quotes on real freedom is freedom from fear

4. “We will never have true civilization until we have learned to recognize the rights of others.” Will Rogers

civil rights quotes about true civilization

5. “My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.”—Desmond Tutu

civil rights quotes about my humanity

6. “The history of the past is but one long struggle upward to equality.” Elizabeth Cady Stanton

civil rights quotes about one long struggle upward to equality

7. Until we get equality in education, we won’t have an equal society.” – Sonia Sotomayor

civil rights quotes about equality in education

8. “Equality and separation cannot exist in the same space.” – Jason Mraz

civil rights quotes about equality and separation cannot exist in the same space

9. “For me, jazz will always be the soundtrack of the civil rights movement.” – Henry Rollins

civil rights quotes about the soundtrack of the civil rights movement

10. The time is always right to do what is right.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

civil rights quotes about the time is always right to do what is right

Civil rights quotes about the civil rights movement

11. “A little less complaint and whining, and a little more dogged work and manly striving, would do us more credit than a thousand civil rights bills.” W. E. B. Du Bois

civil rights quotes about a little less complaint and whining

12. “The greatest movement for social justice our country has ever known is the civil rights movement and it was totally rooted in a love ethic.” Bell Hooks

civil rights quotes about the greatest movement for social justice

13. “It was very clear to me in 1965, in Mississippi, that, as a lawyer, I could get people into schools, desegregate the schools, but if they were kicked off the plantations – and if they didn’t have food, didn’t have jobs, didn’t have health care, didn’t have the means to exercise those civil rights, we were not going to have success.” – Marian Wright Edelman

civil rights quotes to exercise those civil rights, we were not going to have success

14. “The South resented giving the Afro-American his freedom, the ballot box and the Civil Rights Law.” – Ida B. Wells

civil rights quotes about the south resented giving the Afro-American his freedom

15. “I maintain that every civil rights bill in this country was passed for white people, not for black people.” – Stokely Carmichael

civil rights quotes that every civil rights bill in this country was passed for white people

16. “Sometimes, I am also identified as a civil rights leader or a human rights activist. I would also like to be thought of as a complex, three-dimensional, flesh-and-blood human being with a rich storehouse of experiences, much like everyone else, yet unique in my own way, much like everyone else.” Coretta Scott King

civil rights quotes about human rights activist

17. “The unsung heroes of the civil rights movement were always the wives and the mothers.” – Andrew Young

civil rights quotes of the civil rights movement were always the wives and the mothers

18. “The civil rights movement was about access to public space. We had to fight for public space.” – Jacqueline Woods

civil rights quotes about the civil rights movement was about access to public space

19. “The Klan had used fear, intimidation and murder to brutally oppress over African-Americans who sought justice and equality and it sought to respond to the young workers of the civil rights movement in Mississippi in the same way.” – Charles B. Rangel

civil rights quotes about civil rights movement in Mississippi in the same way

20. “I love how music and chants were used in the Civil Rights movement to help people keep marching. How songs were both a balm and a call to action.” – Jamila Woods

civil rights quotesto help people keep marching

21. “The most ironic outcome of the black Civil Rights movement has been the creation of a new black middle class which is increasingly separate from the black underclass.” – Henry Louis Gates

civil rights quotes of a new black middle class which is increasingly separate from the black underclass

22. “There’s no problem on the planet that can’t be solved without violence. That’s the lesson of the civil rights movement.” – Andrew Young

civil rights quotes that's the lesson of the civil rights movement

23. “The civil rights movement would experience many important victories, but Rosa Parks will always be remembered as its catalyst.” – Jim Costa

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civil rights quotes about the civil rights movement would experience many important victories

Civil rights quotes from politicians

24. “Every American citizen must have an equal right to vote. There is no reason which can excuse the denial of that right. There is no duty which weighs more heavily on us than the duty we have to ensure that right. … It is wrong—deadly wrong—to deny any of your fellow Americans the right to vote in this country. There is no issue of states rights or national rights. There is only the struggle for human rights.” Lyndon B. Johnson

civil rights quotes from politicians

25. “The civil rights movement was based on faith. Segregation and racial discrimination were not in keeping with our faith, so we had to do something.” – John Lewis

civil rights quotes about the civil rights movement was based on faith

26. “We cannot have policies that punish people for taking action. Imagine the further harm it would have caused if the federal government banned civil rights leaders from boycotting buses in Montgomery, Alabama, or banning divestment from Apartheid South Africa.” – Rashida Tlaib

27. “I favor the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and it must be enforced at gunpoint if necessary.” – Ronald Reagan
If you’re enjoying these quotes, make sure to read our collection of Ronald Reagan quotes from the former United States President.

28. “I like the idea of amending the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include a ban of discrimination based on sexual orientation. It would be simple. It would be straightforward.” Donald Trump

29. “The liberals in the House strongly resemble liberals I have known through the last two decades in the civil rights conflict. When it comes time to show on which side they will be counted, they excuse themselves.” Shirley Chisholm

30. “In a lot of ways, civil rights division is the conscience of the Justice Department. You can almost measure what kind of Justice Department you have by what kind of civil rights division that you have.” – Eric Holder

31. “It is impossible to struggle for civil rights, equal rights for blacks, without including whites. Because equal rights, fair play, justice, are all like the air: we all have it, or none of us has it. That is the truth of it.” – Maya Angelou

32. “To me, I know that if we could pass the Civil Rights Act of ’64 over 50 years ago, then we can pass Justice for All Civil Rights Act. We can pass Medicare for All.” – Rashida Tlaib

33. “During Black History Month, I’m reminded yet again of the ways that the struggle for civil rights is interwoven with the struggle for workers’ rights.” – Tom Perez
If you’re enjoying these quotes, make sure to read our collection of Black History quotes celebrating the contributions of African Americans.

34. “No Republican questions or disputes civil rights. I have never wavered in my support for civil rights or the civil rights act.” – Rand Paul

Civil rights quotes from celebrities

35. “I think as a whole America is dealing with the issue of homophobia. We got to be really honest about whether we believe in civil rights for all people or not. As Black people we need to remember the moment that we say it’s okay to disenfranchise one segment of society, we’re opening the door to move backward on ourselves.” – Kerry Washington

36. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” – Martin Luther King Jr. 

37. “I think people instinctively know that their job is to give service and that they are part of a community. It had a great impact on me when my father walked the picket lines and I walked with him during the civil rights movement.” – Russell Simmons

38. “My mom went through civil rights; my dad went through civil rights. My name was Kenya because they wanted to give me an African name.” – Kenya Barris

39. “My father wanted me to be a dentist like him, or any doctor, really. There was this attitude of, ‘The civil rights movement was not about you being an artist.’” – Amy Sherald

40. “Civil rights happened because youth got involved. The youth stood up and helped to break the pattern that their parents had got accustomed to living. The next generation has to take that stand for whatever it is, socially, that they are involved in.” – Octavia Spencer

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Civil Rights quotes about Black Lives Matter

41. “I think part of what we’re seeing in the rise of white nationalism is their response to Black Lives Matter, is their response to an ever-increasing fight for equal rights, for civil rights, and for human rights.” – Patrisse Cullors

42. “These movements aren’t about anger. We’re not angrily saying ‘Black Lives Matter.’ We’re declaring it. It’s a declaration. We want to be seen as robust, full human beings that have anger and have joy. We want to be able to just freely have that joy. Like everybody else does.” – Tarana Burke

43. “A lot of people are quick to say that saying ‘black lives matter’ makes you anti-cop. All lives should indeed matter, but we have a systemic problem in this country in which black lives do not matter enough.” – Angie Thomas

44. “Black Lives Matter was created as a response to state violence and anti-black racism and a call to action for those who want to fight it and build a world where black lives do, in fact, matter.” – Alicia Garza

45. “All lives matter, including black lives, which is a value we should be striving for rather than condemning.” – Katie Pavlich

46. “Black Lives Matter is one iteration of a much larger struggle to fight for black people’s freedom.” – Patrisse Cullors

47. “Black lives matter’ doesn’t mean that all lives do not matter, rather it is a cry for equal treatment in the greater circle of justice for all Americans.” – Wayne Messam

48. “Black immigrants and refugees have just as much at stake in the fight to make Black Lives Matter as African Americans do.” – Opal Tometi

49. “The reason why ‘Black Lives Matter’ is a chant is because a lot of people feel, myself included, that sometimes they don’t matter.” – Benjamin Watson

50. “When we address the disparities facing black people, we get a lot closer to a true democracy where all lives matter.” – Alicia Garza

More civil rights quotes

51. “The humanity of all Americans is diminished when any group is denied rights granted to others.” – Julian Bond

52. “If you have a dog, I must have a dog. If you have a rifle, I must have a rifle. If you have a club, I must have a club. This is equality.” Malcolm X

53. Our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.” – Thomas Jefferson

54. “The first principle of non-violent action is that of non-cooperation with everything humiliating.”― Cesar Chavez

55. “Equality is not in regarding different things similarly, equality is in regarding different things differently.” – Tom Robbins

56. “You’re not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who says it.”― Malcolm X

57. “You could not be in the civil rights movement without having an appreciation for everybody’s rights.” – Julian Bond

58. “I had no idea that history was being made. I was just tired of giving up.” —Rosa Parks

59. “If you avoid the civil rights, misusing your power in any shape, the outcome of that will indeed be a tragedy of the entire society and the deplorable crime.” – Ehsan Sehgal

60. “Perot’s father did not know what civil rights were: this was how you treated other human beings.” – Ken Follett

Thought-provoking civil rights quotes

61. “Without prayer, without faith in the Almighty, the civil rights movement would have been like a bird without wings.” – John Lewis

62. “Rejecting the fundamental provision of the Civil Rights Act is a rejection of the foundational promise of America that all men and women should be treated equally, a promise for which many Americans have lost their lives.” – John Yarmuth

63. “I think that the thing that we learned back in the day of the civil rights movement is that you do have to keep on keeping on.” – Charlayne Hunter-Gault

64. “Yes, I think it’s really important to acknowledge that Dr. King, precisely at the moment of his assassination, was re-conceptualizing the civil rights movement and moving toward a sort of coalitional relationship with the trade union movement.” – Angela Davis

65. “When and under what conditions is the black man to have a free ballot? When is he in fact to have those full civil rights which have so long been his in law?” – Benjamin Harrison

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66. “There are those who say to you – we are rushing this issue of civil rights. I say we are 172 years late.” – Hubert H. Humphrey

67. “It is difficult to overstate the importance of the Civil Rights Act.” – Bobby Scott

68. “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” —Shirley Chisholm

69. “The most significant civil rights problem is voting. Each citizen’s right to vote is fundamental to all the other rights of citizenship and the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960 make it the responsibility of the Department of Justice to protect that right.” – Robert Kennedy

70. “Civil rights are more important today than they ever have been in our country. There is so much divisiveness today.” – David Harris

Civil Rights Quotes to protect the LGBTQIA+ Community

71. “If I wait for someone else to validate my existence, it will mean that I’m shortchanging myself.” – Zanele Muholi

72. “For some of us, politics means fighting for our right to exist.” – Scott Westerfeld

73. “It is absolutely imperative that every human being’s freedom and human rights are respected, all over the world.” – Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir

74.  “Equality means more than passing laws. The struggle is really won in the hearts and minds of the community, where it really counts.” – Barbara Gittings

75. “Openness may not completely disarm prejudice, but it’s a good place to start.” – Jason Collins

76. “Being asked why you’re gay is like being asked why you were born human!” – K.L. Laitinen

77. “Being true to oneself creates the integrity and self-respect we need to have if we are to extend that respect to others.” – Jamison Green

78. “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” – Barry Goldwater

79. “Pride is not an LGBT celebration, it’s a human rights celebration – it’s a celebration of equality – it’s a celebration of inclusion – it’s a celebration of acceptance.” – Abhijit Naskar

80. “Human beings are human beings, just treat everyone like that.” – Hayley Williams

Civil Rights Quotes That Inspire Action

81. “The really important victory of the civil rights movement was that it made racism unpopular.” — Carol Moseley Braun

82. “Until cops stop treating blacks differently than whites, we’re going to have problems.” ― Mark M. Bello

83. “I believe it is my obligation to tell the story of the civil rights movement to the next generation.” — John Lewis

84. “Our involvement in the civil rights movement is what sent us into our involvement against apartheid.” — Mary Jane Patterson

85. “We are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” — Martin Luther King

86. As important as the civil rights movement was, I think what will rise to the top is that we left Earth in that time.” — Neil deGrasse Tyson

87. “It was civil disobedience that won them their civil rights.” ― Tariq Ali

88. “Rosa Parks was primed, she had the Civil Rights Movement behind her, she didn’t just decide to sit on the bus, it was strategic.” — Aisha Hinds

89. “I don’t think the riots derailed the civil rights movement.” — Henry Louis Gates

90. “If you think the civil rights movement is over, you’re the one who’s out of touch, not me.” — Madeline Fitch

When’s the last time you researched a topic you cared about? 

At times, it can seem as though the fight for civil rights is a battle that can never be won.

At Everyday Power, we want to start the conversation about civil rights, and the many movements broadening it.

Within this article, our curated quotes can help you learn more about the past and use that information to create a brighter future. 

In this wonderful Internet age, information is at your fingertips.

If you are interested in learning more about civil rights, trade in your daily Netflix binge-watching session for researching.

You may find yourself becoming even more inspired by the work of amazing civil rights activists. 

Which of these civil rights quotes and sayings connected with you the most?

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