It’s clear more than ever that we need social justice activists in our society or we will never move forward. The only way for anything to get better is for us to take responsibility for each other, our community, and the well-being and welfare of everybody across the U.S.—through action and advocacy. But sometimes, we have to be inspired to make a change. Here are some social justice quotes that should inspire you to take action, speak up, and fight for what you believe in.
I hope that these social justice quotes push you to act and make a change in your community. If you’re having trouble finding a way to act and reflect on how to make a change, use this journal to reflect on your activist work. Write down social justice quotes and focus on your sense of responsibility in social justice movements.
Remember: always continue learning, practicing kindness and empathy, and listening to others to help create a better, more equitable world. One day, people shall be filled with the idea that equity, community, and justice are what we should strive for. Until then, we have to fight, unlearn hate, and only love one another.
1. “The world would be a paradise of peace and justice if global citizens shared a common definition of love which would guide our thoughts and action.” Bell Hooks
Bell Hooks is a celebrated author, professor, and activist. Her work was groundbreaking for the feminist movement, and she examines racism, patriarchy, and sexism in her works.
For Hooks, love and empathy are essential in the fight for social justice. Without them, we can’t find common ground, extend kindness to one another, and treat ourselves and others with love and compassion.
I’m always motivated by social justice quotes like this because they speak to the importance of using empathy in our daily lives. Extending kindness to everyone who needs it is an essential part of creating a world that is fueled by love and acceptance. Instead of viewing others as bad or good people, we simply treat them like people who deserve our compassion.
2. “You can jail a revolutionary, but you can’t jail a revolution.” Fred Hampton
Fred Hampton was a prominent member of the Black Panther party. He believed that capitalism was the root of all evil and that the only way to eradicate it was to work together—regardless of class, gender, or race. He spoke out against injustice, was an advocate for Black liberation, and even started free breakfast school programs.
This quote inspires me to take action because it’s a reminder that progress is hard to crush.
No matter what you’re fighting for, or what you believe in, it is hard to destroy it. I am reminded every day by this quote that no matter how I act or what I do, it is not in vain. Masses of people act every day unnoticed but are actively reforming and revolutionarily changing society and politics.
This quote reminds me that even if the social justice work you’re doing is slow coming, it doesn’t mean it’s for nothing.
Change is made by both big strides and small steps.
3. “Sweetie, if you’re not living on the edge, then you’re taking up space.” Florynce Kennedy
A lawyer, activist, and civil rights advocate, Florynce Kennedy was a total badass.
She graduated top of her class in high school, went on to study at Columbia University, and was the only Black woman in her law school class. As a lawyer, she represented famous clientele like singer Billie Holiday. She was also an actor and narrator, and an intersectional feminist and activist who fought for social justice.
Flo boycotted racism in corporations, founded the Feminist Party in 1971, and helped co-found both the National Women’s Political Caucus and the National Black Feminist Organization—all in one lifetime.
She was also an advocate for abortion rights and had incredible style.
I am obsessed with Flo Kennedy—not only because of her social justice quotes, but also her life. She was incredible. Whenever I read one of her quotes, I’m reminded of an important part of fighting for social justice: living on the edge.
Flo Kennedy is right: even if you’re met with backlash, it doesn’t mean you should stop fighting for what you believe in. Quite the contrary: keep going.
4. “The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn.” Gloria Steinem
Gloria Steinem was an outspoken advocate for women’s liberation and abortion. She co-founded Ms. Magazine, was a leading figure of the women’s movement in the 60’s and 70’s, and continues to be an activist.
A journalist by trade, Gloria wrote many articles in her life advocating for women’s sexual and financial liberation, and was outspoken about the abortion she got at eighteen. She co-founded Choice USA in the 90’s, and has worked on numerous political campaigns.
As someone who wants to fight for social justice, one of the most important parts of being a good ally and fighter is unlearning all the harmful and stigmatizing social constructions we’ve been taught. If you’re a white, straight, and/or cisgender person, and therefore have privilege, it’s on us to educate ourselves.
I like this Gloria quote because it reminds me that I should own my responsibility and educate myself first, before relying on other people to educate me. In a world of technology and resources, educating yourself is much easier—especially when articles and books are online for free. You can also find activists and creators who speak out about inequality on social media and blogs.
We can’t drive out hate only—we have to drive out the harmful structures that perpetuate hate. A great way to reflect on your actions, and write down what you’re learning or unlearning is to put it in a journal.
5. “History isn’t something you look back at and say it was inevitable, it happens because people make decisions that are sometimes very impulsive and of the moment, but those moments are cumulative realities.” Marsha P. Johnson
If you don’t know who Marsha P. Johnson is, you should.
She was a participant in the Stonewall Uprising in the late 60’s—a movement that would see clashes between the LGBTQIA+ community and NYC police, and large demonstrations advocating for the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community.
A member of the Gay Liberation front, Marsha organized protests. She partnered with Sylvia Rivera to create STAR, a transgender advocacy group, in the 70’s. Protesting police brutality and advocating for transgender folks, Marsha dedicated her life to activism.
Whenever I read social justice quotes like this, I’m filled with the sense that history is what you make it. There’s a lot of power in Marsha’s words. They’re a constant reminder that we have the power to make the change we want to see. If we can imagine it, we can make it a reality.
6. “Culture does not make people. People make culture. If it is true that the full humanity of women is not our culture, then we can and must make it our culture.” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a famous author and activist. Her TED talk “We Should All Be Feminists” garnered her international fame. Watch it here:
Her novels focus on diaspora and the experiences of Black women in both Africa and America. She’s extremely brilliant, has an excellent sense of humor, and her books are incredible (I recommend Purple Hibiscus and Americanah—two of my favorites).
I love this quote. It evokes a sense of hope.
Even though we have created culture, that means it isn’t inherently true—which means sexism, racism, classicism, and prejudice are all products of what we have created. These creations have caused incredible harm and suffering that cannot continue.
We have to change society and sociopolitical structures—but it isn’t impossible. A mass of people, big or small, can create change.
7. “Change takes courage.” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) is a New York Congressional Representative whose outspoken dedication to human rights and justice has earned her international fame. AOC is the youngest woman ever to serve in the United States Congress.
I love this social justice quote. Justice is to evoke courage. And change indeed takes courage.
Even when I feel upset or let down by the state of the world, this AOC quote inspires me to be courageous every day.
8. “Get up. Stand up. Speak up. Do something.” Tarana Burke
Tarana Burke is the founder of the Me Too movement and an outspoken advocate for survivors of sexual assault. She’s founded “Just Be,” an organization for young Black girls. She is also currently the senior director of the nonprofit Girls for Gender Equity.
Tarana Burke’s quote is bold.
It’s simple, but meaningful, speaking to the importance of the simple act of doing anything. Whether it’s speaking out at your workplace about inequality or educating your family about social justice issues, simply doing something and speaking up makes all the difference in the world.
9. “I believe that telling our stories, first to ourselves and then to one another and the world, is a revolutionary act. It is an act that can be met with hostility, exclusion, and violence. It can also lead to love, understanding, transcendence, and community.” Janet Mock
Janet Mock is a famous transgender activist, author, director, TV host, and producer. Her memoir Redefining Realness was a New York Times bestseller. She’s also written for People Magazine and directed TV episodes for Pose, The Politician, and Hollywood.
A leader in the entertainment world, Mock has blazed the way for trans women of color.
Janet Mock is right: by sharing our stories with one another, we can create connections, and burn down bridges. The more we tell each other our stories, the more we find people who feel like we do, or whose stories are much like ours.
After darkness, only light prevails. If we stay in the dark and don’t tell our stories, we refuse to see the light within each other. Sometimes, making change is as easy as telling our story.
10. “Whether you have feet, wings, fins, or roots, we are all in it together.” Winona LaDuke
Winona LaDuke is an environmentalist and activist. She ran for vice president twice and co-founded Honor The Earth, an advocacy group that was essential in the Dakota Pipeline protests. An advocate of sustainable farming and environmental justice, LaDuke’s work is revolutionary.
Winona LaDuke’s social justice quote seems simple, but I think that its point is often overlooked. We forget that we are a community of living beings, and our actions affect everyone around us, big or small. When we lose a sense of this, we lose what it means to fight for social justice.
Fighting for social justice means leaving selfishness behind. If you have privilege, this means realizing that your privilege often comes at another’s expense. Fighting for social justice means getting rid of structures that give us privilege at the expense of others’ well being.
We’re all in this together.
11. “We must trust our own thinking. Trust where we’re going. And get the job done.” Wilma Mankiller
Wilma Mankiller was an activist and the first woman elected to serve as principal chief for the Cherokee nation. A social worker and advocate for Indigenous rights, Mankiller dedicated her life to social justice.
Part of being a social justice advocate is being fearless. I love this social justice quote because it shows how important confidence in our values is. Without the confidence that we can get stuff done, nothing will get done. We have to go forward, steady and strong.
12. “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.” Angela Y. Davis
Angela Davis has an incredible life.
A Marxist academic at the beginning of her career, Davis went on to be a part of the Black Panther Party. She also ran for vice president in the 80s. On top of that, she is the author of many incredible works that propelled social justice movements forward.
Not only did she fight for Black women’s liberation, but she also championed rights for LGBTQIA+ people and was so radical that Nixon put her on the FBI’s most-wanted list in the 70’s. She’s still alive today, advocating for social justice.
I love this quote because it reminds me that I don’t have to put up with bad treatment. Don’t remain passive when you are experiencing injustice, either. This quote reminds me that we must speak out if we feel unfairly treated, or if we see injustice.
Angela Davis has written numerous books that you should check out. To learn more about her life, start by reading her autobiography!
13. “No one succeeds alone. Never walk alone in your future paths.” Sonia Sotomayor
Sonia Sotomayor is a justice on the Supreme Court and its first Latine member.
Sonia joined the Supreme Court in 1997. Since she’s been on the Supreme Court, her record of ruling in favor of progressive decisions sets her apart as not just an impressive woman, but also an advocate for social justice.
And she’s right: we cannot drive out darkness only by ourselves. We can’t do anything alone. And we aren’t ever alone.
This quote reminds me that I always have peers and people who will support me, and who I can support, too. We’re human beings. We need each other—especially when we’re fighting oppressive systems.
14. “Art is our weapon. Culture is a form of resistance.” Shirin Neshat
Shirin Neshat is a prominent Iranian artist. Her artistic themes range from feminism and masculism, the West and Islam, and exploring contrasts and similarities between them. Her groundbreaking videography and photography have changed the dialogue of Modern Western art.
I love this social justice quote. Though Neshat isn’t a social justice activist, her works certainly address how powerful art can be in changing social dialogue.
This quote also reminds me that activism has many forms—protesting, petitioning, advocating, telling our stories, listening, learning, writing, and even making art.
15. “I always think about the next generation and creating a different blueprint for them. That’s my goal: to let them know there’s another way.” Janelle Monáe
Janelle Monáe is a famous singer and songwriter, and, in my opinion, fashion icon. Her stylish videos and deeply meaningful music address social and structural problems in America like racism, patriarchy, capitalism, and white supremacy.
This social justice quote always reminds me that sometimes, simply being ourselves shows people around us there isn’t one way to live.
Discovering ourselves and living by our own terms can be as much a force of resistance as anything. Sometimes, happiness and joy are in the face of such an oppressive society can be revolutionary. In order to first fight for what we believe in, we have to embrace ourselves and find resistance in our authenticity.
Equity can never be attained if we fail to act and if we continue to let bad people determine our future.
Hate cannot drive us apart. Darkness cannot drive us to hurt others, either. If we harness the powers of empathy, love, and bravery, we can combat both of these forces.
This past decade, from Black Lives Matter protests to the Women’s March, people assembled in great masses to protest injustice and pass reforms. With our voices and our fighting spirit, we have been able to make a change.
There are so many activists and so many social justice quotes that motivate me to act. These are just a few social justice quotes to motivate you to act, too—from people who have made a radical change during the time of Martin Luther King Jr. to advocates who are alive and fighting today.