Martin Luther King Jr.

Quotations

Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

Letter from a Birmingham Jail, 16 April 1963

We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

Success, recognition, and conformity are the bywords of the modern world where everyone seems to crave the anesthetizing security of being identified with the majority.

Strength to Love (1963)

Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and … when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress.

'Letter from Birmingham Jail' in Why We Can't Wait 1963.

The sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality.

I Have A Dream (1963)

Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

'Letter from Birmingham Jail' in Why We Can't Wait 1963.

The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood.

Strength to Love (1963)

There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.

'Letter from Birmingham Jail' in Why We Can't Wait 1963.

Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like any man, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And 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. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

I've Been to the Mountaintop (Speech in Memphis, TN, April 3 1968)

We who in engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive.

'Letter from Birmingham Jail' in Why We Can't Wait 1963.

He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it.

Stride Towards Freedom
Often paraphrased as "One who condones evils is just as guilty as the one who perpetrates it."

A nation or civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men purchases its own spiritual death on an installment plan.

Strength to Love (1963)

We will speed the day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing … “Free at last, Free at last, Thank God Almighty, I’m free at last.”

The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be.

'Letter from Birmingham Jail' in Why We Can't Wait 1963.

Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

Strength to Love pt. 4 ch. 3 (1963)

We have genuflected before the god of science only to find that it has given us the atomic bomb, producing fears and anxieties that science can never mitigate.

Strength to Love ch. 13 (1963)

Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.

Acceptance Speech, on the occasion of the award of the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, December 10, 1964

We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.

'Letter from Birmingham Jail' in Why We Can't Wait 1963.

The quality, not the longevity, of one’s life is what is important. If you are cut down in a movement that is designed to save the soul of a nation, then no other death could be more redemptive.

Spoken at Ebenezer Baptist Church the month before his death, and recalled at Dr. King's funeral.

A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right. A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice. A man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true.

Speech on pulpit, Selma, AL, March 8, 1965. Often condensed into "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.".

We are not makers of history. We are made by history.

Strength to Love (1963)

Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon…which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals.

Why We Can't Wait

I submit to you that if a man hasn’t discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.

Speech in Detroit, Michigan, June 23 1963

Yes, I see the Church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.

'Letter from Birmingham Jail' in Why We Can't Wait 1963.

The soft-minded man always fears change. He feels security in the status quo, and he has an almost morbid fear of the new. For him, the greatest pain is the pain of a new idea.

A Tough Mind And A Tender Heart (Sermon)