The accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans are celebrated in February with Black History Month, a tradition that goes back nearly 40 years in its current form. What began as Negro History Week in 1950 was expanded to Black History Month by U.S. President Gerald Ford in 1976, according to the Library of Congress.

In declaring Black History Month, Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” In recognition of Black History Month, here are 20 inspiring quotes from black leaders and prominent African-Americans:

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality. ... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” -- Martin Luther King

“No race can prosper till it learns there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem.” -- Booker T. Washington

“If you only think of me during Black History Month, I must be failing as an educator and as an astrophysicist.” -- Neil deGrasse Tyson

“The thing about black history is that the truth is so much more complex than anything you could make up.” -- Henry Louis Gates

“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.” -- U.S. President Barack Obama

“Laundry is the only thing that should be separated by color.” -- Unknown

“One day our descendants will think it incredible that we paid so much attention to things like the amount of melanin in our skin or the shape of our eyes or our gender instead of the unique identities of each of us as complex human beings.” -- Franklin Thomas

“The African race is a rubber ball. The harder you dash it to the ground, the higher it will rise.” – African proverb

“We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.” -- Maya Angelou

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” -- Frederick Douglass

“Hate is too great a burden to bear. It injures the hater more than it injures the hated.” -- Coretta Scott King

“The cost of liberty is less than the price of repression.” -- W.E.B. Du Bois

“We should emphasize not Negro History, but the Negro in history. What we need is not a history of selected races or nations, but the history of the world void of national bias, race hate, and religious prejudice.” -- Carter Woodson

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” -- Harriet Tubman

“Black people have always been America’s wilderness in search of a promised land.” -- Cornel West

“The United States has been called the melting pot of the world. But it seems to me that the colored man either missed getting into the pot or he got melted down.” -- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall

“Racial superiority is a mere pigment of the imagination.” -- Unknown

“I had no idea that history was being made. I was just tired of giving up.” -- Rosa Parks

“In this country American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.” -- Toni Morrison

“Where there is no struggle, there is no strength.” -- Oprah Winfrey