50 Powerful Martin Luther King, Jr., Quotes That Stand the Test of Time
These timeless words will restore your faith in humanity on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and every day.
Honoring Martin Luther King, Jr.
1. “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.” (Speech at Cornell College, 1962.) Here are more powerful quotes that speak volumes in the fight against racism.
2. “True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.” (Stride Toward Freedom, 1957.) Anyone can battle against injustice with these small ways to fight racism every day.
3. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: Only love can do that.” (Strength to Love, 1963.)
4. “Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.” (Speech at Park-Sheraton Hotel, 1962.) Learn why Black History Month shouldn’t be just a single month.
5. “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed.” (“Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” 1963.)
6. “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.” (The Drum Major Instinct, 1968.) For evidence of this, check out these true stories of ordinary people who changed history.
8. “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” (Speech in St. Louis, 1964.)
9. “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.” (A Gift of Love, published in 2012.) Here are some more inspiring forgiveness quotes that encourage you to finally let go.
10. “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.” (“A Proper Sense of Priorities,” 1968.) Now, learn how the clenched fist became a Black power symbol.
11. “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.” (“I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” 1968.)
12. “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.” (Strength to Love, 1963.)
15. “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.” (Address at Spelman College, 1960.) Check out these other great motivational quotes to start your day.
17. “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.” (“Beyond Vietnam,” 1967.) Like many of these Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes, these vintage photos of unity encourage finding common ground.
18. “We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.” (“The Purpose of Education,” 1947.)
20. “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.” (“The Death of Evil upon the Seashore,” 1956.)
21. “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.” (Nobel Lecture, 1964.) Check out some more of our favorite inspiring peace quotes from world leaders.
22. “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.” (“I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” 1968.)
23. “We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope.” (In My Own Words, published in 2002.)
24. “All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.” (“All Labor Has Dignity,” 1968.) Revisit the Civil Rights era with these incredible movies about Martin Luther King, Jr.
25. “I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream.” (“I Have a Dream,” 1963.) Celebrate Dr. King’s legacy with these meaningful ways people celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
26. “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.” (Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, 1964.)
rd.com, getty images
27. “Love is the greatest force in the universe. It is the heartbeat of the moral cosmos. He who loves is a participant in the being of God.” (From a handwritten letter, mid-1960s.)
29. “Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.” (“The Most Durable Power,” 1956.) Keep the inspiration flowing with these inspiring John Lewis quotes about voting, education, and social justice.
30. “If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.” (Christmas Sermon, 1967.)
rd.com, getty images
32. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” (“I Have a Dream,” 1963.)
33. “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” (“Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” 1963.)
35. “Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love…violence ends up defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.” (Nobel Lecture, 1964.)
36. “Hate is too great a burden to bear. I have decided to love.” (“Where Do We Go From Here?” 1967.)
rd.com, getty images
37. “We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always right to do right.” (“Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” 1963.) Get inside the head of anther inspiring man with these James Baldwin quotes.
38. “The beauty of genuine brotherhood and peace is more precious than diamonds or silver or gold.” (Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, 1964.)
39. “Forgiveness is not an occasional act. It is a permanent attitude.” (“Love in Action,” 1962.)
41. “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” (Strength to Love, 1963.)
42. “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” (From a sermon delivered in Selma, Alabama, 1965.)
44. “We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.” (“I Have a Dream,” 1963.)
45. “Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice, say that I was a drum major for peace, I was a drum major for righteousness, and all the other shallow things will not matter.” (Sermon in Atlanta, 1968.)
rd.com, getty images
47. “Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.” (Speech at Glenville High School, 1967.)
48. “For when people get caught up with that which is right and they are willing to sacrifice for it, there is no stopping point short of victory.” (“I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” 1968.)
50. “There comes a time when people get tired of being pushed out of the glittering sunlight of life’s July and left standing amid the piercing chill of an alpine November.” (“The Montgomery Bus Boycott,” 1955.) Now that you’ve finished reading these Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes, get even more inspired with these powerful Black History Month quotes.