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28 Inspirational Quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr.

These timeless words will restore your faith in humanity on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and every day.

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Start with communication

“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.” Here are more powerful quotes that speak volumes in the fight against racism.

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No justice, no peace

“True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.” Anyone can battle against injustice with these small ways to fight racism every day.

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Drive out darkness and hate

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: Only love can do that.” One of the most famous Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes, this quote implores that two wrongs don’t make a right. Here are some more great quotes that encourage kindness and compassion.

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Have faith

“Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.” Learn why Black History Month shouldn’t be just a single month.

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Demand freedom

“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed.” This is sad but true, and these statistics showing the undeniable reality of structural racism in America prove it.

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Anybody can serve

“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” For evidence of this, check out these true stories of ordinary people who changed history.

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We must all protest

“Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.” Another MLK quote that’s incredibly relevant today! He understands that everyone has a role to play in the struggle for justice. Take it from these unexpected places that have been protesting racial injustice.

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Live together

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” While you’re reading these MLK quotes, you should also know that these “facts” about Martin Luther King, Jr. that aren’t true.

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Forgiveness and love

“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.” Here are some more inspiring forgiveness quotes that encourage you to finally let go.

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What is popular or what is right

“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right.”

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Right to protest

“All we say to America is, ‘Be true to what you said on paper.’ … Somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of the press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right.” Don’t take the right to protest for granted! Here’s our guide to what you should wear and bring to a protest.

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The measure of a man

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” These Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes know that trying times are what bring out a person’s true nature.

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The key to happiness

“Those who are not looking for happiness are the most likely to find it, because those who are searching forget that the surest way to be happy is to seek happiness for others.” Here are some more quotes from notable people about finding happiness.

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A genuine leader

“A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.”

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A single stone

“Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” These MLK quotes remind us that hope is never truly gone.

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Keep moving forward

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” Talk about inspirational! Check out these other great motivational quotes to start your day.

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Injustice impacts everyone

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Dr. King wrote these words, and many others just as inspirational, from prison after being arrested during a nonviolent protest. There are plenty more powerful Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes in his 1963 “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

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Listen to one another

“Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence, when it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.” Like many of these MLK quotes, these vintage photos of unity encourage finding common ground.

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Live and learn

“We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.”

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Shake the foundations

“The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.” According to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, we might be closer to that day than ever—this is why 2020’s protest movement is different than ever before.

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Work for change

“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom.”

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A noble weapon

“Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. Indeed, it is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it.” Check out some more of our favorite inspiring quotes about peace from world leaders.

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No time like the present

“A right delayed is a right denied.” This is why desegregation didn’t put an end to racism in America.

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Difficult days ahead

“We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now because I’ve been to the mountaintop… I’ve looked over and I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land.” Here’s yet another MLK quote that hits home today.

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Hold on to hope

“We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope.” Many of these Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes are just as relevant today as they were 50 years ago. Here are more uplifting quotes about hope that will stay with you.

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Doing good work

“All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”

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The importance of dreams

“I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream.” Celebrate Dr. King’s legacy with these meaningful ways people celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

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The final word

“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.” For a closer look at the life of the celebrated leader, check out these rarely seen photos of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Meghan Jones
Meghan Jones is a Staff Writer for RD.com who has been writing since before she could write. She graduated from Marist College with a Bachelor of Arts in English and has been writing for Reader's Digest since 2017. In spring 2017, her creative nonfiction piece "Anticipation" was published in Angles literary magazine. She is a proud Hufflepuff and member of Team Cap.