Black Quotations from Marion Berry to Natasha Trethewey

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For Guernica, Lauren K. Alleyne interviews Retha Powers, editor of the new Bartlett’s Familiar Black Quotations, which collects quotes by a rainbow of black sources, from Zora Neale Hurston to NWA to ancient Egypt.

It’s a really interesting glimpse at the necessity and difficulty of distilling the essence of “the black experience” from all the different black experiences in the whole diaspora. A snippet:

Here is this woman in her mid-to-late thirties, a black woman, and that she would say something like that—that black people are not happy people because of this legacy that we have of racism and enslavement… That she would think that that’s all of it—that that’s her takeaway—was a strong wake-up call for me for the necessity of a book like this.


Lauren O'Neal is an MFA student at San Francisco State University. Her writing has appeared in publications like Slate, The New Inquiry, and The Hairpin. You can follow her on Twitter at @laureneoneal. More from this author →