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. And don’t forget to also check out these unity and diversity quotes that inspire us to stand together.
Civil rights quotes on equality
1. “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
2. “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.
3. “We will never have true civilization until we have learned to recognize the rights of others.” – Will Rogers
4. “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
5. “The history of the past is but one long struggle upward to equality.” – Elizabeth Cady Stanton
6. “Equality is not in regarding different things similarly, equality is in regarding different things differently.” – Tom Robbins
7. “Democracy not only requires equality but also an unshakable conviction in the value of each person, who is then equal.” – Jeane Kirkpatrick
8. “Equality and separation cannot exist in the same space.” – Jason Mraz
Civil rights quotes about the civil rights movement
9. “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
10. “When I think about our babies today and them not being safe in school, I think that should be the next civil rights movement, you know, is to ban the assault weapons so that our babies can be safe.” – Ruby Bridges
11. “For me, jazz will always be the soundtrack of the civil rights movement.” – Henry Rollins
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
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
If you’re enjoying these quotes, make sure to read our collection of insightful lawyer quotes about justice for all.
14. “The South resented giving the Afro-American his freedom, the ballot box and the Civil Rights Law.” – Ida B. Wells
If you’re enjoying these quotes, you’ll love our collection of historic Ida B. Wells quotes about battling racism and sexism.
15. “I maintain that every civil rights bill in this country was passed for white people, not for black people.” – Stokely Carmichael
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
17. “The unsung heroes of the civil rights movement were always the wives and the mothers.” – Andrew Young
If you’re enjoying these quotes, make sure to check out our collection of hero quotes that inspire everyone to make a difference.
18. “The civil rights movement was about access to public space. We had to fight for public space.” – Jacqueline Woods
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
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
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
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
23. “The civil rights movement would experience many important victories, but Rosa Parks will always be remembered as its catalyst.” – Jim Costa
Don’t forget to also check out these protest and activism quotes and sayings to inspire you to action.
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
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
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. “School choice is the civil rights issue of the 21st century.” – Ted Cruz
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. “My grandmother had been a part of the civil rights movement.” – Killer Mike
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
You might also like these powerful John Lewis quotes that will inspire you to continue his work
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
Don’t forget to also read these Carter G. Woodson quotes that will remind you how important it is to know black history.
More civil rights quotes
51. “People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.” – Søren Kierkegaard
52. “The only real prison is fear, and the only real freedom is freedom from fear.” – Aung San Suu Kyi
53. “Our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.” – Thomas Jefferson
54. “The civil rights movement is understanding your freedom under the Constitution of these United States and if anyone tries to take those freedoms from you, you better rise up and fight and that’s what we’re doing together.” – Ken Hutcherson
55. “And without power, all the protesting in the world meant nothing. The shift went from fighting for civil rights to fighting for freedom. The difference between the two is simple. One implies a fight for fairness. The other, a right to live.” – Jason Reynolds
56. “Has racial justice improved? Have we moved on from Reconstruction and Jim Crow? Been lifted by Martin and the Civil Rights Act of 1964? It seems that whenever we take two steps forward, we take a step back.” – Mark M. Bello
57. “If I want to know how I’d have shown up in the last civil rights era, I have to ask myself: How am I showing up today, in this civil rights era?” – Glennon Doyle
58. “When we hide racism under the guise of ‘humor,’ we insulate white racist privilege and make a mockery of civil rights.” – DaShanne Stokes
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
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? Drop us a comment below!
March 1, 2021 6:00 AM EST