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  • Writer's picturePaul LaLonde

Black Rebels

“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” – Fredrick Douglass

I have a rebellious streak in me at times. I don’t like to suffer fools. If something isn’t right, I have a very hard time going with it quietly. This streak has gotten me in trouble here and there. I’ve always hoped it was “good trouble.”

Rebellion shouldn’t only be cast in the terms of violence. Rebels stand against the status quo. They refuse to accept “what is” because of dishonesty, injustice, or evil norms. One of the greatest and simplest acts of rebellion can be to smile when the world tells you to frown.

Rebels inspire me. It’s likely why I enjoy the anti-hero. Batman has always been more interesting than Superman. It’s likely why I love heavy metal music – thrash in particular with its raw emotion, sonic tempos, and harsh lyrics – often attacking societal norms. Rebels don’t fit neatly into any space or box or label. I think it’s something I try to aspire to.

More importantly, however, rebels educate me. They get me to think differently. I learn new things, facts, stories.

Few folks have been more rebellious in American history than Black Americans. On the fringes of society since day one, I’m not sure it could have turned out any other way, frankly.

Though, I’m not here to write anything about Juneteenth, or anything else about the Black experience. People far more qualified than me have already done so if one hits the Google search.

No, I am here to share some quotes from powerful Black rebels. Each of these individuals has in some way leant their powerful words to our society in an effort to illicit change – powerful change.

I wanted to keep this short and simple. Please research history. True American history has escaped Americans for too long. For instance, I remarked with a friend recently that neither of us knew that in Tennessee the slaves were not freed by the Emancipation Proclamation because its capital city of Nashville was under Union control in early 1862. The Proclamation, issued in January 1863, freed slaves in states under active rebellion against the United States. Tennessee was not considered such.

Both of us were history majors in college and have a stark interest in the Civil War. It’s criminal we didn’t know this, but it’s better late than never.

There’s more to this story of course, like the influence of then Union loyalist Senator (and Union imposed Governor of Tennessee) Andrew Johnson, as well as the fact that there were still legal slaves in New Jersey in the 1860s. But that’s the point…. We’ve failed to learn. What good is history if we don’t? It’s just facts to win points on Jeopardy!

Read. Read. Read. Read. Please, read. Read anything and everything. Remain intellectually curious.

It’s what these Black rebels did (and do). They are rebels because they’ve succeeded in a society that often times told them they cannot succeed – or put barriers in their way to ensure they don’t succeed.

Successful rebels pull triumph from the jaws of indifference, or worse, forced intolerance. These folks inspire me, educate me – and I hope others do the same for you as well.

  1. “Good communication is the bridge between confusion and clarity.” – Nat Turner

  2. “Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.” – Frederick Douglass

  3. “If women want any rights more than they’s got, why don’t they just take them, and not be talking about it.” – Sojourner Truth

  4. “How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.” – George Washington Carver

  5. “You’re not to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.” – Malcom X

  6. “I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.” – James Baldwin

  7. “Without courage we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.” – Maya Angelou

  8. “Drag says ‘I’m a shapeshifter, I do whatever the hell I want at any given time’.” – RuPaul

  9. “Drag says ‘I’m a shapeshifter, I do whatever the hell I want at any given time’.”

  10. you knowing me before doesn’t mean you know who i am now…” – Joél Leon

  11. “The good news is that racist and antiracist are not fixed identities. We can be a racist one minute and an antiracist the next. What we say about race, what we do about race, in each moment, determines what — not who — we are.” ― Ibram X. Kendi

  12. “We need to be on the front lines of our own issues.” ― Minda Harts

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