Speeches By Black Female Orators You Should Know – Part 2


If you haven’t seen my last post, for Women’s History Month,  I began a curation of a few of the most powerful and influential speeches made by black women. That post featured a Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman”, Josephine Baker’s words from The March on Washington, and Shirley Chisolm’s introduction of The Equal Rights Amendment. This month, I wanted to touch on some influential speeches that were made a bit more recently.

Viola Davis’s 2015 Emmy Acceptance Speech

Viola Davis has quickly become a household name, and for good reason. Not only has Viola solidified herself as an amazing actress, she’s also unafraid to speak the truths of her reality in the Hollywood (as seen in her 2011 Women in Hollywood speech). Her speech in 2015 at the Emmy’s was monumental. Viola became the first African American to receive an Emmy for best actress in drama, and she shared her win with all women of color in the industry, with a poignant and beautiful thank you.

The speech was as follows:


“In my mind, I see a line. And over that line, I see green fields and lovely flowers and beautiful white women with their arms stretched out to me, over that line. But I can’t seem to get there no how. I can’t seem to get over that line.’

That was Harriet Tubman in the 1800s. And let me tell you something: The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity.

You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there. So here’s to all the writers, the awesome people that are Ben Sherwood, Paul Lee, Peter Nowalk, Shonda Rhimes, people who have redefined what it means to be beautiful, to be sexy, to be a leading woman, to be black.

And to the Taraji P. Hensons, the Kerry Washingtons, the Halle Berrys, the Nicole Beharies, the Meagan Goods, to Gabrielle Union: Thank you for taking us over that line. Thank you to the Television Academy. Thank you.”

It’s easy to see why this speech was so important. Viola was able to shed light on a situation much larger than herself, and was adamantly thankful to those who played (and continue to play) a part in the creation of opportunity for black women and other women of color in Hollywood.


Michelle Obama’s Remarks at Memorial Service for Dr. Maya Angelou


Speeches from memorial services are most definitely not the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks about important speeches. But Michelle Obama’s words for the late Dr. Maya Angelou’s service went beyond a simple eulogy. She spoke of the power that Dr. Angelou possessed, and the impact that Angelou had on the lives of black women, and all women everywhere.  Michelle Obama spoke not only as the First Lady of the United States but also as every woman. She spoke to how Dr. Angelou made her feel, and was able to voice her thanks, praise, and reverence for the amazing Dr. Maya Angelou.


“But while I don’t remember her exact words I do remember exactly how she made me feel. She made me feel like I owned the place, too. She made me feel like I had been born on that stage right next to her. And I remember thinking to myself, “Maya Angelou knows who I am! And she is rooting for me! So now, I’m good. I can do this. I can do this.”

You can watch the full speech here:

Speeches By Black Female Orators You Should Know – Part 1

In honor of Women’s History Month, I wanted to share what are, in my opinion, a few of the most powerful and poignant speeches by Black women in history.

These are speeches that have quite literally changed history, and were delivered by women who were unafraid to voice their opinions and passion in spaces that were/are not always welcoming and appreciative of their words.

There will be some very old, and some very new speeches listed, but each one deserves recognition and serves as an important reminder of the power of words.

(Click the links to read the full speeches)


“Ain’t I A Woman?”– Sojourner Truth (1851)

Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth delivered this speech on May 29th, 1851 to the Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio. While there are a few different versions of the speech floating around, every single version portrays the same powerful message: A demand for equality of women of all races. It was a succinct and ground breaking speech, that acted as a retort to the idea of women being weak and intellectually inferior to men.


Josephine Baker at the March on Washington (1963)

Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker was the only woman that spoke at the March on Washington. Ms. Baker was famed for being a singer and entertainer of unrivaled talent, who dominated the entertainment industry in the 1920s. She was the first African american woman to star in a movie, and the first to integrate a concert hall in the US. But, by 1963, Josephine was known for living as an expatriate in France. She’d always been an activist, and delivered her speech to the masses in her uniform from the french resistance.


Josephine spoke of the reasons behind her self-imposed exile to France. She told her story of being invited into palaces and homes of presidents of other countries, but being denied service and humanity in the United States. Ms. Baker stressed to the United States as a whole that the treatment of blacks was unreasonable and inhumane, and that change was of the utmost importance.


The Introduction of The Equal Rights Amendment by Shirley Chisholm


Shirley Chisholm was a force to be reckoned with, and she dedicated her career to making positive changes for women. Ms. Chisholm was the first black woman to be elected to Congress, and she made sure to use her position of power bring the Equal Rights Amendment back to the forefront of people’s minds.

Shirley Chisholm’s speech addressed the harsh reality of the fact that she felt more discrimination for being a woman than for being black (as outward racial discrimination was becoming less acceptable). She expressed that there was an unspoken, but very real assumption that women were less capable and not as intelligent as men. Her speech called for a recognition and reconciliation of the discriminatory practices against women; and helped bring attention to the issues that many attempted to overlook.

Be sure to check back next month for even more beautiful, powerful speeches you need to be aware of!


Public Speaking–Why We Should All Do It

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who would willingly, and dare I say enthusiastically, sign up for a public speaking course and those who will do just about anything to avoid it.

In fact, the Chapman University Survey on American Fears found that America’s biggest phobia is public speaking, with 25.3 percent of those polled admitting the dread they feel when communicating to a crowd is the the most terrifying thing they can imagine. Even more so than snakes, bugs, and needles.

When most think of public speaking, sweaty palms, racing minds, and shaky voices come to mind, however the benefits of public speaking can outweigh the terrors of talking once the fear has been overcome (or comfortably accepted).

Here are a handful of reasons why everyone (yes, that means you!) should take a public speaking course:

Fear? What Fear?

Fear of public speaking? Like we mentioned before, it’s a given with over a quarter of the American population. So by taking a public speaking course, you’re essentially kicking fear in the gut, letting it know it doesn’t control you.

Facing a fear is a guaranteed confidence-booster (and after you’ve overcome America’s biggest fear, there’s basically nothing you can’t do) and by the end of the course, you’ll be able to stand up in front of a crowd, making strong eye contact while delivering your words with conviction and vigor.

Public speaker

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Face it, You Need it.

We might shudder in terror at the notion, but there are very few professions, college courses, and lifestyles that don’t require to never get in front of a crowd and communicate to some degree. From boardroom presentations, to giving your kid’s little league team a pep-talk, it’s difficult to avoid public speaking for your entire life. And while Jerry Seinfeld once famously said  “…to the average person, if you have to be at a funeral, you’d rather be in the casket than doing the eulogy,” a 2013 survey by the National Association of College and Employers found that communicating effectively is the most sought-after quality in new employees.

Allow Yourself to be Heard.

When we reflect on some of the most influential people in history, it’s unlikely they never got up in front of a crowd and let their voice be heard. Public speaking can make a huge difference, from TED talks to Presidential addresses to elementary school book reports, it’s an opportunity to stand in front of an audience and captivate them. Make them feel, challenge them, influence them.


4 Tips for Skillful Public Speaking

microphone-barbara mckinzieMany face public speaking with an air of fear in their stomach. However, there are several ways to overcome that feeling and attack the art masterfully. Perhaps it is refreshing to know that this subject has been discussed all throughout history.

In ancient Greece, individuals believed in the power of persuasion and public speaking. Philosopher, Aristotle identified three components of communication that if followed correctly would make for the most powerful method of conveying ideas. He highlighted Ethos, Pathos, and Logos. Ethos involves gaining the respect of the listeners, Pathos is the appeal to the listeners’ emotions, and Logos includes the facts used to convey a message. There are more tips that will make a public speech powerful.


A speech that comes across as spontaneous can take the most prep time. Winston Churchill and Mark Twain both acknowledge that practice is a valuable component of effective speaking. Churchill went as far as executing 45 hours of preparing for a speech that was meant to be 45 minutes long.

The Big Idea

Within the first few moments of being on stage, it is important for the speaker to get to the main point of their presentation. Some of the top TED talks all employ the same method. It is similar to an unforgettable song that has a recognition worthy hook. Give the audience something that they can take with them.

Artful Pause

Taking a moment of silence before beginning is a method of gaining the audience’s attention. Napoleon Bonaparte was known for doing this with his troops. This strategy adds weight to the words about to be said and can also be found in negotiation meetings or sales pitches.

Be Authentic

Use casual wording and a tone that would appeal to those in a barbershop, for example, even if you are on stage delivering a speech. Ronald Reagan explored this approach during his years as a radio broadcaster. To better reach his listeners, he didn’t want to think of them as random individuals. He spoke as if he were building camaraderie at his local barber. This type of banter is more relatable.

To read more, visit Fast Company online here.