I spent time exploring the National Museum of African American History and Culture earlier this month and was struck by the brilliance of candor in history and about history that continues to have profound impact and relevance to our nation today. I am sharing what I found most compelling:
Recognizing the truth about our past
We must tell the story, the whole story, a 400-year story of African Americans’ contributions to this nation’s history from slavery to the present — without anger or apology.
~ Rep. John Lewis, GA
The great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it… history is literally present in all that we do.
~ James Baldwin
Why must we remember? Is this but a counsel of vengeance and hate? God forbid! We must remember because if once the world forgets evil, evil is reborn.
~ The Crisis Magazine, 1919
Acknowledging the roles in which we each participate
If the problem of the twentieth century was, in W.E.B. Du Bois’s famous words, “the problem of the color line,” then the problem of the twenty-first century is the problem of colorblindness, the refusal to acknowledge the causes and consequences of enduring racial stratification.
~ Naomi Murakawa
If at least the country could just tell the truth about ourselves… You have to recognize that you are prejudiced before you can begin to change it.
~ Oprah Winfrey
Honesty regardless of the boundaries of comfort
We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake… the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes… denounced.
~ Frederick Douglass
Fire must be met with water, darkness with light, and war for the destruction of liberty must be met with war for the destruction of slavery.
~ Frederick Douglass
Looking forward with optimism
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
~ Maya Angelou
Freeing yourself was one thing; Claiming ownership of that freed self was another.
~ Toni Morrison
God’s time is always near. He gave me my strength. And he set the North star in the heavens; He meant I should be free.
~ Harriet Tubman
In a thousand years that action of yours will make the Angels sing I know it.
~ Hannah Johnson to President Abraham Lincoln
Truth is the answer
The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.
~ Ida B. Wells
The truth lights the path and shows us the way. We cannot ignore it, and so we must embrace the truth and work forward from a place of honesty and respect.