What can I say about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that you do not already know? I spent two weeks doing my best to come up with the words to write the introduction for my feature on Dr. King without repeating the facts on him that we all have read in our history books. So I decide to tell you all about my newfound admiration for him instead.
When I was younger, I always resented that Dr. King received more recognition for the advancement of Civil Rights than any other Civil Rights leader. This led me to learn more about and become inspired by Medgar Evans, Malcolm X, and James Baldwin.
Fast forward to last year. As I was searching for Marcus Garvey’s Writings, I stumbled upon The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr. After reading his autobiography, I learned about the process he went through to become a Civil Rights leader. I learned how many times he doubted himself – but NEVER his mission.
All that I learned about Dr. King led me to admire him more as a man, an author, a speaker, and as a leader. I would love to share some of my favorite inspiring quotes by Martin Luther King Jr. These quotes are from his famous speeches, interviews, and from the book, ‘The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr.’. When finished, also check out our collection of unity quotes for additional inspiration.
Famous Quotes by Martin Luther King Jr. on Having More Courage
1. “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
2. “When people are voiceless, they will have temper tantrums like a child who has not been paid attention to. And riots are massive temper tantrums from a neglected and voiceless people.” – The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr. (page 293)
3. “We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
4. “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education” – Martin Luther King Jr.
5. “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
6. “The quality, not the longevity, of one’s life is what is important” – Martin Luther King Jr.
7. “The past is prophetic in that it asserts loudly that wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows” – Martin Luther King Jr.
8. “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend” – Martin Luther King Jr.
9. “He was an eloquent spokesman for his point of view and no one can honestly doubt that Malcolm had a great concern for the problems that we face as a race. While we did not always see eye to eye on methods to solve the race problems, I always had a deep affection for Malcolm and felt that he had the great ability to put his finger on the existence and root of the problem.” – Martin Luther King Jr on Malcolm X
10. “He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
11. “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.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
12. “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.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
13. “It is not enough to say we must not wage war. It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
14. “Nonviolence is absolute commitment to the way of love. Love is not emotional bash; it is not empty sentimentalism. It is the active outpouring of one’s whole being into the being of another.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
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.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
16. “Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
Also check out these powerful civil rights quotes striding towards equality.
Inspiring Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes on Equality and Forgiveness
17. “No one really knows why they are alive until they know what they’d die for.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
18. “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.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
19. “And I’m simply saying this morning, that you should resolve that you will never become so secure in your thinking or your living that you forget the least of these…In some sense, all of us are the least of these, but there are some who are least than the least of these.
I try to get it over to my children early, morning after morning devotions, I couldn’t pray my prayer without saying, ‘God, help us, as we sit at this table to realize that there are those who are less fortunate than we are.’
And I said to my little children, ‘I’m going to work and do everything that I can do to see that you get a good education. I don’t ever want you to forget that there are millions of God’s children who will not and cannot get a good education, and I don’t want you feeling that you are better than they are. For you will never be what you ought to be until they are what they ought to be.’” – Resolutions: From a sermon on January 7, 1968
20. “A man who won’t die for something is not fit to live.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
21. “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
22. “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.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
23. “Whatever your life’s work is, do it well. A man should do his job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
24. “The art of acceptance is the art of making someone who has just done you a small favor wish that he might have done you a greater one.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
25. “We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war but the positive affirmation of peace.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
If you’re enjoying these quotes, you’ll love our collection of war quotes from writers, politicians, and more.
26. “Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
27. “I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
28. “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.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
29. “Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a constant attitude.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
30. “The God whom we worship is not a weak and incompetent God. He is able to beat back gigantic waves of opposition and to bring low prodigious mountains of evil. The ringing testimony of the Christian faith is that God is able.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
31. “If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
32. “We are prone to judge success by the index of our salaries or the size of our automobiles rather than by the quality of our service and relationship to mankind.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
33. “Not everybody can be famous. But everybody can be great, because greatness is determined by service… You only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
34. “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.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
35. “Courage is an inner resolution to go forward despite obstacles; Cowardice is submissive surrender to circumstances. Courage breeds creativity; Cowardice represses fear and is mastered by it. Cowardice asks the question, is it safe? Expediency asks the question, is it politic?
Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But conscience ask the question, is it right? And there comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because it is right.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
Powerful Quotes by Martin Luther King Jr. on Peace and Faith
36. “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
37. “Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, ‘Love your enemies.’ It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. Just keep being friendly to that person. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long.
Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load.
That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
38. “World peace through non-violent means is neither absurd nor unattainable. All other methods have failed. Thus we must begin anew. Nonviolence is a good starting point. Those of us who believe in this method can be voices of reason, sanity, and understanding amid the voices of violence, hatred, and emotion. We can very well set a mood of peace out of which a system of peace can be built.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
If you’re enjoying these quotes, you’ll love our collection of world peace quotes to give you hope for humanity.
39. “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
40. “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.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
41. “Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
42. “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
43. “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
44. “I came to the conclusion that there is an existential moment in your life when you must decide to speak for yourself; nobody else can speak for you.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
45. “When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
46. “That old law about ‘an eye for an eye’ leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
47. “Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
48. “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”– Martin Luther King Jr.
49. “Never succumb to the temptation of bitterness.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
50. “Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
Also check out these Carter G. Woodson quotes that will remind you how important it is to know black history.
More quotes by Martin Luther King Jr.
51. “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” –Martin Luther King Jr.
52. “A lie cannot live.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
53. “Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
54. “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.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
55. “One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
56. “The SILENCE of the good people is more DANGEROUS than the BRUTALITY of the bad people.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
57. “There is nothing more majestic than the determined courage of individuals willing to suffer and sacrifice for their freedom and dignity.” –Martin Luther King Jr.
58. “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.” – Martin Luther King Jr
59. “We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
60. “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
61. “I want to be the white man’s brother, not his brother-in-law.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
62. “If physical death is the price that I must pay to free my white brothers and sisters from a permanent death of the spirit, then nothing can be more redemptive. ” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
63. “Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. I am not unmindful of the fact that violence often brings about momentary results. Nations have frequently won their independence in battle. But in spite of temporary victories, violence never brings permanent peace.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
64. “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.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
65. “The moral arc of the universe bends at the elbow of justice.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
More quotes by Martin Luther King Jr.
66. “I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
67. “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
68. “Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
69. “We will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
70. “At the center of non-violence stands the principle of love.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
71. “I am not interested in power for power’s sake, but I’m interested in power that is moral, that is right and that is good.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
72. “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
73. “We are faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words ‘Too Late’.”― Martin Luther King Jr.
74. “A nation or civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men purchases its own spiritual death on the installment plan.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
75. “Find a voice in a whisper.”― Martin Luther King Jr.
76. “What is wrong in the world today is that the nations of the world are engaged in a bitter, colossal contest for supremacy.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
77. “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.”― Martin Luther King Jr.
78. “I have a dream that one day little black boys and girls will be holding hands with little white boys and girls.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
79. “The end of life is not to be happy, nor to achieve pleasure and avoid pain, but to do the will of God, come what may.”― Martin Luther King, Jr.
80. “Violence brings only temporary victories; violence, by creating many more social problems than it solves, never brings permanent peace.”― Martin Luther King Jr.
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Which of these quotes by Martin Luther King Jr. struck a chord in you?
I hope that these quotes by Martin Luther King Jr. will help you find courage when things look impossible to overcome. I hope they lead us all to love others no matter our differences.
January 18, 2021 7:50 AM EST