Jill Krementz Photo Journal: A Celebration of Black History Month

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I was working at Show magazine as the assistant to theater critic Otis Guernsey. In addition to reporting, I had started photographing which is why I had shown him my photos taken on the day President Kennedy was shot. So when a press release alerted our office that Marian Anderson would be singing at a Memorial service at City Hall honoring our president, it was Otis who suggested I grab my camera and go downtown to take some pictures.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
— Maya Angelou
“What we play is life.”
— Louis Armstrong
”A liberal: someone who thinks he knows more about your experience than you do.”
— James Baldwin
“When you use the term minority or minorities in reference to people, you’re telling them that they’re less than somebody else.”
— Gwendolyn Brooks
“We are more than we imagine ourselves to be. It’s what we tell our children, our parents, our friends. But how often do we tell it to ourselves?“
— Veronica Chambers
“What they call you is one thing. What you answer to is something else.”
— Lucille Clifton
Our society has gotten to the point where we might soon become less and less shocked by any kind of violence.
— Stanley Crouch
“I come from a place where breath, eyes, and memory are one, a place from which you carry your past like a hair on your head. Where women return to their children as butterflies or as tears in the eyes of the statues that their daughters pray to.”
— Edwidge Danticat
“When Obama was elected president, a prisoner said, “One black man in the White House doesn’t make up for one million black men in the Big House.”
― Angela Y. Davis
“If we’re going to solve the problems of the world, we have to learn how to talk to one another. Poetry is the language at its essence. It’s the bones and the skeleton of the language. It teaches you, if nothing else, how to choose your words.”
― Rita Dove
“I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.”
— Ralph Ellison
“Anyone can fly. All you need is somewhere to go that you can’t get to any other way. The next thing you know, you’re flying among the stars.”
— Faith Ringgold
I have learned as much about writing about my people by listening to blues and jazz and spirituals as I have by reading novels.
— Earnest L. Gaines
“I suggest that the good life does not depend on good times. The test of the good life, as I have been speaking of it, is in its capacity to get us through and beyond the bad times, the times when things turn sour. Everybody can count themselves good, happy, and virtuous when it takes no effort to be so and there is no consequence; living a good life is what prepares one to endure and overcome when life is not so good.”
— Rev. Peter Gomes.
“Everybody that loves freedom loves Harriet Tubman because she was determined not only to be free, but to make free as many people as she could.”
— Nikki Giovanni
“When you clench your fist, no one can put anything in your hand.”
— Alex Haley
“Sundays too my father got up early and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold, then with cracked hands that ached from labor in the weekday weather made banked fire blazes. No one ever thanked him.”
— Robert Hayden
“Empowerment cannot happen if we refuse to be vulnerable while encouraging students to take risk.”
— bell hooks
“You have to be taught to be second class; you’re not born that way.”
— Lena Horne
“We are all worthy of one another.”
— Edward P. Jones, The Known World
“I excavate history. I look at lives buried under too much silence. Periods of time, like slavery, have to be revisited, reimagined, so we can move through them.”
— Yusef Komunyakaa
“God is the color of water. Water doesn’t have a color.”
— James McBride
“I think that if you study the first generation of slaves out of slavery, you find that they were artisans, they were brick masons, they built all the plantation houses in the South. They weren’t just field hands, they were architects. That threatened the power structure, and so from 1896 until the early ’50s, there was an attempt to suppress any evidence of black intelligence. It was aimed at making sure black laborers never competed with white laborers. That accounted for the mass wave of migration out of the South.”
— James Alan McPherson
“Definitions belong to the definers, not the defined.”
― Toni Morrison, Beloved
“When the Negro musician or dancer swings the blues, he is fulfilling the same fundamental existential requirement that determines the mission of the poet, the priest and the medicine man.”
— Albert Murray
“Black men of our day were never told, The sky’s the limit …. We could aspire to Joe Louis but never Henry Ford.”
― Walter Mosley, Little Green: An Easy Rawlins Mystery
“I suffered evils, but without allowing them to rob me of the freedom to expand.”
— Gordon Parks
A man hasn’t got a corner on virtue just because his shoes are shined.
— Ann Petry
“White supremacy isn’t back; it never went away.”
— Darryl Pinckney, Busted in New York and Other Essays
“I still hear you humming, Mama. The colour of your song calls me home. The colour of your words saying, Let her be. She got a right to be different. She gonna stumble on herself one of these days. Just let the child be. And I be, Mama.”
— Sonia Sanchez
“Daddy complains that my stuff is always sad and Mother asks why I have to tell everything. But people forget, and I won’t let them, not as long as I can write.”
—Ntozake Shange
“I want my portraits to create a space where blackness can breathe.”
— Amy Sherald
“Every moment happens twice: inside and outside, and they are two different histories.”
― Zadie Smith, White Teeth
“For so long, the world has viewed West Indian culture as semiliterate and backward, which it is not. In my work, I have tried to give that world an exposure so the world can better understand it.”
— Derek Walcott
“Being a slave meant never having the stability of knowing your family would be together as many years as God designed it to be. It meant you could come back from picking cotton in a field to find that your children are gone, your husband’s gone, your mother’s gone. It meant knowing you are property that could be sold to the highest bidder, of value only to continue to support the plantation economy.”
— Colson Whitehead
“Identity is not inherent. It is shaped by circumstance and sensitivity and resistance to self-pity.”
― Dorothy West, The Wedding

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