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  2. Black History Month

Top 40 Inspirational Quotes of Black Entrepreneurs & Leaders

Earlier in Black History Month, we looked at some of the innovative black entrepreneurs who are shaking up the business world in 2018.

If you want to join them, how about soaking up some words of wisdom from people who’ve overcome challenges and achieved success, both historically and in more recent times?

To help you, here are 40 great inspirational quotes by black entrepreneurs and leaders that will help you stay motivated, follow your passion, and achieve your goals. I've also added links so that you can discover more about these leaders and their achievements.

1. Working With Other People

Divine Ndhlukula
Divine Ndhlukula, Photo By Tayananiswa - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0
“All business is personal... Make your friends before you need them.” — Robert L. Johnson (Source: Entrepreneur Hall of Fame)
“It’s up to you to bring yourself to the attention of powerful people around you. They’re not going to find you on their own.” — Richard Parsons (Source:
“I always make sure I hire people smarter than me.” — Aliko Dangote (Source: Forbes)
“I am where I am because of the bridges that I crossed. Sojourner Truth was a bridge. Harriet Tubman was a bridge. Ida B. Wells was a bridge. Madame C. J. Walker was a bridge. Fannie Lou Hamer was a bridge." — Oprah Winfrey (Source: Learning Liftoff)
“Success depends on employees. For me knowing and connecting with my employees is very important.” – Divine Ndhlukula (Source: How We Made It in Africa)

2. Overcoming Challenges

Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass, Photo from Wikipedia
“The battles that count aren't the ones for gold medals. The struggles within yourself—the invisible, inevitable battles inside all of us—that's where it's at." — Jesse Owens (Source: Wikiquote)
“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” — Frederick Douglass (Source: Mental Floss)
“It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.” — Lena Horne (Source: The Daily Quotes)
“Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.” — Booker T. Washington (Source: ThinkExist)
“Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose. Nobody goes undefeated all the time. If you can pick up after a crushing defeat, and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday.” — Wilma Rudolph (Source: Happy Black Woman)

3. Staying Motivated

CJ Walker
C.J. Walker, Photo from Wikipedia
“If you’re a competitive person, that stays with you. You don’t stop. You always look over your shoulder.” — Magic Johnson (Source: Addicted2Success)
“Just don’t give up what you’re trying to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.” — Ella Fitzgerald (Source: Caren Merrick)
“I had to make my own living and my own opportunity. But I made it! Don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them.” — Madam C.J. Walker (Source: CNBC)
“You’re not obligated to win. You’re obligated to keep trying to do the best you can every day.” — Marian Wright Edelman (Source: She Leads Africa)
“I believe in destiny. But I also believe that you can’t just sit back and let destiny happen. A lot of times, an opportunity might fall into your lap, but you have to be ready for that opportunity. You can’t sit there waiting on it. A lot of times you are going to have to get out there and make it happen.” Spike Lee (Source: Black Enterprise)

4. Making Changes

Chinua Achebe
Chinua Achebe, Photo by Stuart C. Shapiro, CC BY-SA 3.0
“No action is too small when it comes to changing the world… I’m inspired every time I meet an entrepreneur who is succeeding against all odds.” — Cyril Ramaphosa (Source: Ventures Africa)
“If we are going to be part of the solution, we have to engage the problems.” — Majora Carter (Source:
“The impatient idealist says: ‘Give me a place to stand and I shall move the earth.’ But such a place does not exist. We all have to stand on the earth itself and go with her at her pace.” — Chinua Achebe (Source: Huffington Post)
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” — Barack Obama (Source: The New York Times)
“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don't complain.” — Maya Angelou (Source: The Guardian)

5. Achieving Your Vision

Daymond John
Daymond John, Photo by 4hourworkweek - CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikipedia
“[Don’t] let anyone convince you that your dream, your vision to be an entrepreneur, is something that you shouldn’t do. What often happens is that people who are well meaning, who really care for us, are afraid for us and talk us out of it.” — Cathy Hughes (Source:
“Every great dream begins with a dreamer.” — Harriet Tubman (Source: Black Enterprise)
“Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us." — Wilma Rudolph (Source: Happy Black Woman)
“Have a vision. Be demanding.”
— Colin Powell (Source: London South Bank University)
“Five days a week, I read my goals before I go to sleep and when I wake up. There are 10 goals around health, family and business with expiration dates, and I update them every six months.” — Daymond John (Source: BrainyQuote)

6. The Need for Hard Work

Aliko Dangote
Aliko Dangote, Photo by World Economic Forum - CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikipedia
“There is no royal flower-strewn path to success. And if there is, I have not found it, for whatever success I have attained has been the result of much hard work and many sleepless nights.” — Madam C.J. Walker (Source: CNBC)
‘The harder you work, the luckier you get’’ — Mike Adenuga (Source: Ventures Africa)
“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’” — Muhammad Ali (Source: International Business Times)
“I built a conglomerate and emerged the richest black man in the world in 2008 but it didn’t happen overnight. It took me 30 years to get to where I am today. Youths of today aspire to be like me but they want to achieve it overnight. It’s not going to work. To build a successful business, you must start small and dream big. In the journey of entrepreneurship, tenacity of purpose is supreme.” — Aliko Dangote (Source: Vanguard Media)
“I always wanted to be somebody. If I made it, it’s half because I was game enough to take a lot of punishment along the way and half because there were a lot of people who cared enough to help me.” — Althea Gibson (Source: Happy Black Woman)

7. Living Your Values

Ursula Burns
Ursula Burns, Photo from Wikipedia
“Dedicate yourself to a core set of values. Without them, you will never be able to find personal fulfillment, and you will never be able to lead effectively.” — Kenneth Chenault (Source: Black Enterprise)
“I realized I was more convincing to myself and to the people who were listening when I actually said what I thought, versus what I thought people wanted to hear me say.” — Ursula Burns (Source: BrainyQuote)
“Trust yourself. Think for yourself. Act for yourself. Speak for yourself. Be yourself. Imitation is suicide.” — Marva Collins (Source: Happy Black Woman)
“Never be limited by other people's limited imaginations.”
— Mae Jemison (Source: Learning Liftoff)
“Success isn't about how much money you make; it's about the difference you make in people's lives.” — Michelle Obama (Source: White House Press Office)

8. Striving for Self-Improvement

Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones
Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, Photo from Wikipedia
“To know how much there is to know is the beginning of learning to live.” — Dorothy West (Source: Huffington Post)
“If everything was perfect, you would never learn and you would never grow.” — Beyoncé (Source: BrainyQuote)
"Never ever chase money. You should chase success, because with success money follows." — Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones (Source: SkiveServices)
“Aspiring entrepreneurs have to actually do something that they feel strongly passionate about, and in most cases they should seek inspiration from their own experience… If you had a terrible experience, you should despise the experience to the extent that you are continuously seeking a solution for it.” — Best Ayiorwoth (Source: How We Made It in Africa)
“I'm hungry for knowledge. The whole thing is to learn every day, to get brighter and brighter. That's what this world is about. You look at someone like Gandhi, and he glowed. Martin Luther King glowed. Muhammad Ali glows. I think that's from being bright all the time, and trying to be brighter.” — Jay-Z (Source: BrainyQuote)


In this article, you’ve discovered some inspirational and insightful quotes from a range of black leaders and entrepreneurs. I hope this has helped you to celebrate Black History Month in a way that helps you move forward in your career.

If you still need more business and entrepreneurship inspiration, check out this video on FUBU founder Daymond John's top 10 rules for success:

Now that you've studied and learned from some of the greatest minds, I hope that you feel motivated to follow your passion and achieve your dreams.

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