Love is more than just a word. It’s more than just a sentimental feeling of romance or intimacy. And for Black people, love is more than a commercialized holiday that comes once a year. For Black people, love is a radical act.

When thinking of radical Black love, we remember Lerone Bennett Jr.’s 1981 Ebony magazine article, “The Roots of Black Love”:

As a matter of hard historical fact, the true story of Black love — love colored by, love blackened by the Black experience — is the exact opposite of the traditional myth. There is, moreover, plenty of evidence to show that Black men and women — despite slavery, despite segregation, despite everything — created a modern love song in life and art that is the loveliest thing dreamed or sung this side of the seas.”

History has taught us that against all odds, regardless of circumstance, Black love prevails. To love and be loved as a Black person in America has never been easy, but it has always remained. That is why one of the most powerful things a Black person can do is unapologetically love all parts of their Blackness in the face of oppressive forces that have only tried to convince otherwise.

As we celebrate Black History Month, we are reminded of the lessons and legacies of those who have boldly loved before us. For generations, Black women writers such as bell hooks, Toni Morrison, Audre Lorde, Maya Angelou and so many others have guided us through revolutions with the power of their pens. These women were aware of the transformative power that love possesses and sought to enlighten the rest of us with their theories, poetry and prose. Here, we share a collection of quotes from these amazing women on the incredible power of love.


On Community

11 Love Lessons From Our Favorite Authors

Audre Lorde (Photo: Creative Commons)

“We are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond.”

Gwendolyn Brooks, “Paul Robeson” Blacks

“The love expressed between women is particular and powerful because we have had to love in order to live; love has been our survival.”

Audre Lorde,  Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches

“Some say we are responsible for those we love. Others know we are responsible for those who love us.”

Nikki Giovanni, “The December of My Springs”


On Self-Love

11 Love Lessons From Our Favorite Authors

Cover of the original Broadway cast recording of “for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf.”

“I am a feminist, and what that means to me is much the same as the meaning of the fact that I am Black; it means that I must undertake to love myself and to respect myself as though my very life depends upon self-love and self-respect.”

June Jordan, Civil Wars

“I think us here to wonder, myself. To wonder. To ask. And that in wondering ‘bout the big things and asking ‘bout the big things, you learn about the little ones, almost by accident. But you never know nothing more about the big things than you start out with. The more I wonder, the more I love.”

Alice Walker, The Color Purple

“You can’t have relationships with other people until you give birth to yourself.”

Sonia Sanchez, Shake Loose My Skin

“I found God in myself & I loved her/I loved her fiercely”

Ntozake Shange,  for colored girls who consider suicide when the rainbow is enuf

11 Love Lessons From Our Favorite Authors

Toni Morrison speaking at “A Tribute to Chinua Achebe” in 2008 in New York. (Photo: Public Domain)

On Power

“Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.”

Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

“Do they still call it infatuation? That magic ax that chops away the world in one blow, leaving only the couple standing there trembling? Whatever they call it, it leaps over anything, takes the biggest chair, the largest slice, rules the ground wherever it walks, from a mansion to a swamp, and its selfishness is its beauty. Before I was reduced to singsong, I saw all kinds of mating. Most are two-night stands trying to last a season. Some, the riptide ones, claim exclusive right to the real name, even though everybody drowns in its wake. People with no imagination feed it with sex — the clown of love. They don’t know the real kinds, the better kinds, where losses are cut and everybody benefits. It takes a certain intelligence to love like that — softly, without props. But the world is such a showpiece, maybe that’s why folks try to outdo it, put everything they feel onstage just to prove they can think up things too: handsome scary things like fights to the death, adultery, setting sheets afire. They fail of course. The world outdoes them every time.”

Toni Morrison, Love

11 Love Lessons From Our Favorite Authors

Maya Angelou reciting her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993. (Photo: Public Domain)

On Freedom

I am grateful to have been loved and to be loved now and to be able to love, because that liberates. Love liberates. It doesn’t just hold—that’s ego. Love liberates. It doesn’t bind. Love says, ‘I love you. I love you if you’re in China. I love you if you’re across town. I love you if you’re in Harlem. I love you. I would like to be near you. I’d like to have your arms around me. I’d like to hear your voice in my ear. But that’s not possible now, so I love you. Go.”

Maya Angelou, Oprah’s Master Class

“Genuine love is rarely an emotional space where needs are instantly gratified. To know love we have to invest time and commitment … dreaming that love will save us, solve all our problems or provide a steady state of bliss or security only keeps us stuck in wishful fantasy, undermining the real power of the love – which is to transform us.’ “

bell hooks, All About Love