Books: Readings

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After her students complained that they were unable to find material they needed for a Black History Month assignment, Dorothy Winbush Riley, a Detroit teacher, set out to find and collect a volume of familiar quotations by people of color. The book she originally published independently--My Soul Looks Back 'Less I Forget--has been updated and expanded for a hardback edition by HarperCollins. Its selections span a variety of historical periods, sources, and subjects. The passages below are taken from the section on education:

"It takes a whole village to educate a child.''

"One's work may be finished some day, but one's education never.''
Alexandre Dumas

"Whether you like it or not the millions are here, and here they will remain. If you do not lift them up, they will pull you down. ... Education must not simply teach work--it must teach life.''
W.E.B. DuBois
"The Talented Tenth,''
The Negro Problem, 1903

"I plead for industrial education and development for the Negro, not because I want to cramp him, but because I want to free him. I want to see him enter the all-powerful business and commercial world.''
Booker T. Washington
speech given at the Atlanta Exposition, 1895

"One system of education could not fit the needs of an entire race; to sneer at and discourage higher education would mean to rob the race of leaders which it so badly needed; and that all of the industrial education in the world could not take the place of manhood.''
Ida B. Wells
in Duster, ed.,
Crusade for Justice, 1928

"One of the most striking evidences of the failure of higher education among Negroes is their estrangement from the masses, the very people upon whom [they] must eventually count for carrying out a program of progress.''
Carter G. Woodson
The Mis-education of the Negro, 1933

"Real education consists in drawing the best out of yourself. What better book can there be than the book of humanity?''
Mohandas Gandhi
in Harijan, March 30, 1934

"The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character--that is the goal of true education.''
Martin Luther King Jr.
What Manner of Man, c. 1958

"We real cool. We Left school. We Lurk late. We Strike straight. We Sing sin. We Thin gin. We Jazz June. We Die soon.''
Gwendolyn Brooks
"We Real Cool,'' ÿFDThe Bean Eaters, 1960

"The purpose of education ... is to create in a person the ability to look at the world for himself, to make his own decisions. ...''
James Baldwin
"A Talk to Harlem Teachers,''
Harlem, U.S.A., 1964

"Education is indoctrination if you're white; subjugation if you're black.''
James Baldwin
c. 1968

"You can't legislate good will--that comes through education.''
Malcolm X
Amsterdam News, March 28, 1964

"Nothing should be overlooked in fighting for better education. Be persistent and ornery; this will be good for the lethargic educational establishment and will aid the whole cause of public education.''
Roy Wilkins
speech given at the N.A.A.C.P. Convention, 1969

"I don't expect white people to educate our kids. ... We are responsible. The power structure will not address issues that are at the root. The challenge falls back on us.''
Gil Noble
"Footnotes of a Culture at Risk,''
Crisis, March 1986

"Education is all a matter of building bridges.''
Ralph Ellison
"What These Children Are Like,''
Going to the Territory, 1986

"Education must serve a consciousness-raising function to prepare black people to make a contribution to a struggle that began centuries before they were born and will extend centuries after their death.''
Janice Hale Benson
Black Child in Education, 1988

"I only went through 10th grade, but you'll see all kinds of textbooks around me. The more popular I become, the more I miss education. Whether you play blues or whatever, don't let people keep you like you were.''
B.B. King
c. 1991

"We must always go the second mile. When we go the first mile, we simply do what is required of us. It is when we go the second mile that excellence is achieved and minor miracles happen.''
Deborah McGriff
in The Detroit Teacher, Sept. 9, 1991

From My Soul Looks Back, 'Less I Forget: A Collection of Quotations by People of Color, ed. by Dorothy Winbrush Riley. Copyright 1993. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins.

Vol. 13, Issue 03

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