45 Juneteenth Quotes That Will Inspire You

These Juneteenth quotes will spark your inner activist to go out and work for a better, more equal future.

While Independence Day is nationally celebrated as the day Americans acquired their freedom, not everyone became free that day. Black Americans remained enslaved for 82 years after July 4, 1776. There is a long history of Juneteenth, including the Juneteenth flag, but to sum things up: Juneteenth celebrates the emancipation of enslaved Black Americans.

The day is meant to remember the hardships that Black Americans faced, celebrate their achievements, and serve as a reminder that the work is far from over. These Juneteenth quotes will inspire you to keep fighting for equality and raise that Black Power fist high and proud.

Quotes about Juneteenth

"Nobody's free until everybody's free." Fannie Lou MaeRD.com, Getty Images

1. “Hold those things that tell your history and protect them. During slavery, who was able to read or write or keep anything? The ability to have somebody to tell your story to is so important. It says: ‘I was here. I may be sold tomorrow. But you know I was here.’” —Maya Angelou

2. “Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.” —Abraham Lincoln

3. “Slavery is no scholar, no improver; it does not love the whistle of the railroad; it does not love the newspaper, the mail-bag, a college, a book or a preacher who has the absurd whim of saying what he thinks; it does not increase the white population; it does not improve the soil; everything goes to decay.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

4. “Now I’ve been free, I know what a dreadful condition slavery is. I have seen hundreds of escaped slaves, but I never saw one who was willing to go back and be a slave.” —Harriet Tubman

5. “Slavery is theft—theft of a life, theft of work, theft of any property or produce, theft even of the children a slave might have borne.” —Kevin Bales

6. “Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.” —Toni Morrison

7. “The 4th of July was never about Black people. Juneteenth is just for us. As Black people, we are told we don’t deserve our own holidays rooted in our own history. Everything is whitewashed. Juneteenth is for us…Juneteenth symbolizes the hope that my children and grandchildren will be free. It’s Black Joy and Black tenacity to survive.” —Tanesha Grant

8. “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.” —Fannie Lou Hamer

9. “Women who fought and sacrificed so much for equality and liberty and justice for all, including the Black women who are often, too often overlooked, but so often prove they are the backbone of our democracy.” —Kamala Harris

10. “I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free…so other people would be also free.” —Rosa Parks

If you’re looking at how you can do your part, start by educating yourself on white privilege.

Happy Juneteenth quotes

Coretta Scott King quoterd.com, Getty Images

11. “There are still many causes worth sacrificing for, so much history yet to be made.” —Michelle Obama

12. “Struggle is a never-ending process. Freedom is never really won, you earn it and win it in every generation.” —Coretta Scott King

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

14. “Every year we must remind successive generations that this event triggered a series of events that one by one defines the challenges and responsibilities of successive generations. That’s why we need this holiday.” —Al Edwards

15. “The day we were free—everyone was free. Why not make it a paid holiday? We deserve that.… We want a day that is inclusive to everyone.” —Pharrell Williams

16. “Juneteenth has never been a celebration of victory or an acceptance of the way things are. It’s a celebration of progress. It’s an affirmation that despite the most painful parts of our history, change is possible—and there is still so much work to do.” —Barack Obama

17. “What I love about Juneteenth is that even in that extended wait, we still find something to celebrate. Even though the story has never been tidy, and Black folks have had to march and fight for every inch of our freedom, our story is nonetheless one of progress.” —Michelle Obama

18. “Juneteenth allows us to remember how far Black people have progressed since, and it is a reminder of the strength we have within us.” —Bethel Kyeza

19. “Today on Juneteenth, the day we celebrate the end of slavery, the day we memorialize those who offered us hope for the future, and the day when we renew our commitment to the struggle for freedom.” —Angela Davis

20. “Juneteenth means so much to me. It represents the freedom that my ancestors fought so tirelessly for. But rather than focusing on the brutalization of my people then and now, I choose to focus on hope.” —Mariah Cooley

21. “Juneteenth may mark just one moment in the struggle for emancipation, but the holiday gives us an occasion to reflect on the profound contributions of enslaved Black Americans to the cause of human freedom. It gives us another way to recognize the central place of slavery and its demise in our national story.” —Jamelle Bouie

22. “Juneteenth is another moment for me and my loved ones to build an archive of truth and experience of (ourselves) Black folks.” —Tatiana Glover

Celebrate freedom by finding out how you can be an ally in the movement toward equality.

Powerful Juneteenth quotes

Maya Angelou quoterd.com, Getty Images

23. “Anytime anyone is enslaved, or in any way deprived of his liberty, if that person is a human being, as far as I am concerned he is justified to resort to whatever methods necessary to bring about his liberty again.” —Malcolm X

24. “As Black women, we’re always given these seemingly devastating experiences—experiences that could absolutely break us. But what the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls the butterfly. What we do as Black women is take the worst situations and create from that point.” —Viola Davis

25. “The flag that was the symbol of slavery on the high seas for a long time was not the Confederate battle flag, it was sadly the Stars and Stripes.” —Alan Keyes 

26. “I swear to the Lord I still can’t see why democracy means everybody but me.” —Langston Hughes

27. “Knowledge makes a man unfit to be a slave.” —Frederick Douglass

28. “Won’t it be wonderful when Black history and Native American history and Jewish history and all of U.S. history is taught from one book. Just U.S. history.” —Maya Angelou

29. “We’re in denial of the African holocaust. Most times, people don’t want to talk about it. One is often restless or termed a racist just for having compassion for the African experience, for speaking truth to the trans-Atlantic and Arab slave trades, for speaking truth to the significant omission of our history. We don’t want to sit down and listen to these things, or to discuss them. But we have to.” —Ilyasah Shabazz

30. “Juneteenth reminds me of Black freedom dreams, my freedom dreams.” —Dannese Mapanda

31. “You must never, ever give out. We must keep the faith because we are one people. We are brothers and sisters. We all live in the same house: the American house.” John Lewis

32. “You may kill me with your hatefulness. But still, like air, I’ll rise.” —Maya Angelou 

33. “My fellow Americans, this is a special moment in our history. Just as people of all faiths and no faiths, and all backgrounds, creeds, and colors banded together decades ago to fight for equality and justice in a peaceful, orderly, nonviolent fashion, we must do so again.” —John Lewis

For more quotes to inspire you this Juneteenth, check out these anti-racism quotes that speak volumes in the fight for equality.

Inspirational Juneteenth quotes

Kwame Nkrumah quoterd.com, Getty Images

34. “Freedom is not something that one people can bestow on another as a gift. They claim it as their own and none can keep it from them.” —Kwame Nkrumah

35. “We are going to get out here, I am going to get out here and get something done. We have to wake up, America. We have to make America uncomfortable like we’ve been uncomfortable for 400 years.” —Gwen Carr

36. “If the cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. Because the goal of America is freedom, abused and scorned tho’ we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny.” —Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

37. “I just don’t believe that when people are being unjustly oppressed that they should let someone else set rules for them by which they can come out from under that oppression.” —Malcolm X

38. “You can’t separate peace from freedom, because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.” —Malcolm X

39. “Whether it’s freedom to express, freedom to live, freedom to earn, freedom to thrive, freedom to learn, whatever it is, I want to make sure that I’m a part of these spaces and opening doors.” —Angela Rye

40. “Liberation lies within us and will not be formed from the current institutional structures we have in place, for it never has.” —Fatimata Cham

41. “In the end, anti-Black, anti-female, and all forms of discrimination are equivalent to the same thing: anti-humanism.” —Shirley Chisholm

42. “We Black folk, our history, and our present being are a mirror of all the manifold experiences of America. What we want, what we represent, what we endure is what America is. If we Black folk perish, America will perish.” —Richard Wright

43. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color.” —Colin Kaepernick

44. “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” —Nelson Mandela 

45. “Say it loud. I’m Black and I’m proud!” —James Brown

Now that you’ve been inspired by these Juneteenth quotes, check out these small ways you can fight racism every day.

Emma Taubenfeld
Emma Taubenfeld is a former assistant editor for Reader’s Digest who writes about digital lifestyle topics such as memes, social media captions, pickup lines and cute pets. When she’s not working, you can find Emma reading corny young adult novels, creating carefully curated playlists and figuring out how to spice up boxed mac and cheese.