Martin Luther King Jr. quotes that have impacted history
Martin Luther King Jr. is a legend who needs no introduction. His life was not dedicated to fame, fortune or popularity – it was dedicated to justice and impact. MLK will always be remembered as someone who fought hate with love – and won. Who fought violence with peace – and won. And who successfully provided light in the darkest of places. He used his words and actions to change the thinking and behavior of millions. Not to mention, he never let the fear of anything…even death, get in his way, slow him down or distract him from his mission. He is a true inspiration.
There are so many amazing quotes by MLK, but I decided to focus on 50. Here are 50 of the BEST (in my humble opinion) MLK quotes to live by!
1.) “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.
2.) “I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation — either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
3.) “There is nothing more dangerous than to build a society with a large segment of people in that society who feel that they have no stake in it; who feel that that have nothing to lose. People who have stake in their society, protect that society, but when they don’t have it, they unconsciously want to destroy it.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
4.) “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.
5.) “I am coming to feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than the people of goodwill. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people. We must come to see that human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy, and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.” Letter From Birmingham Jail, 1963 – Martin Luther King Jr.
6.) “I’m concerned about a better world. I’m concerned about justice; I’m concerned about brotherhood; I’m concerned about truth. And when one is concerned about that, he can never advocate violence. For through violence you may murder a murderer, but you can’t murder murder. Through violence you may murder a liar, but you can’t establish truth. Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can’t murder hate through violence. Darkness cannot put out darkness; only light can do that.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
7.) “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.
Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes
8.) “You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be. And one day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls you to stand up for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid…. You refuse to do it because you want to live longer…. You’re afraid that you will lose your job, or you are afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you’re afraid that somebody will stab you, or shoot at you or bomb your house; so you refuse to take the stand. “Well, you may go on and live until you are 90, but you’re just as dead at 38 as you would be at 90. And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
9.) “Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.
Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.
Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God’s children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the qu icksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.,
Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes
10.) “On the parable of the Good Samaritan: “I imagine that the first question the priest and Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But by the very nature of his concern, the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
11.) “On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. “A Time to Break Silence,” at Riverside Church” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
12.) “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.
13.) “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’” – Martin Luther King Jr.
14.) “Wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
16.) “Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor in America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours.” The Trumpet of Conscience, 1967 – Martin Luther King Jr.
17.) “If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
18.) “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.” – From “Loving Your Enemies” – Martin Luther King Jr.
19.) “Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfillment which cannot be completely explained by those symbols called words. Their meanings can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes
20.) “We have flown the air like birds and swam the sea like fish, but have yet to learn the simple act of walking the earth like brothers.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
21.) “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there “is” such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
22.) “As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation — either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.
23.) “Violence never really deals with the basic evil of the situation. Violence may murder the murderer, but it doesn’t murder murder. Violence may murder the liar, but it doesn’t murder lie; it doesn’t establish truth. Violence may even murder the dishonest man, but it doesn’t murder dishonesty. Violence may go to the point of murdering the hater, but it doesn’t murder hate. It may increase hate. It is always a descending spiral leading nowhere. This is the ultimate weakness of violence: It multiplies evil and violence in the universe. It doesn’t solve any problems.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
More Martin Luther King quotes
24.) “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. … The chain reaction of evil—hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars—must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
25.) “On some positions, Cowardice asks the question, “Is it safe?” Expediency asks the question, “Is it politic?” And Vanity comes along and asks the question, “Is it popular?” But Conscience asks the question, “Is it right?”… The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of convenience, but where he stands in moments of challenge, moments of great crisis and controversy.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
More MLK quotes
26.) “Time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. 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. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to work to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
27.) “I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture of their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down, men other-centered can build up I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive goodwill will proclaim the rule of the land.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
28.) “Communism forgets that life is individual. Capitalism forgets that life is social, and the kingdom of brotherhood is found neither in the thesis of communism nor the antithesis of capitalism but in a higher synthesis. It is found in a higher synthesis that combines the truths of both.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
29.) “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.
More Martin Luther King Jr. quotes about life and death
30.) “Unless you have found something in life to live for that is more important to you than your own life, you will always be a slave. For all another man needs to do is threaten to take your life to get you to do his bidding.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
31.) “And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? … It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.
32.) “The human heart is like a ship on a stormy sea driven about by winds blowing from all four corners of heaven.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
33.) “The ultimate tragedy of Birmingham was not the brutality of the bad people, but the silence of the good people.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. quotes about compassion
34.) “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” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
35.) “We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
36.) “Whatever I was, I owed to my family and to all those who struggled with me. But my biggest debt I owed to my wife. She was the one who gave my life meaning. All I could pledge to her, and to all those millions, was that I would do all I could to justify the faith that she, and they, had in me. I would try more than ever to make my life one of which she, and they, could be proud. I would do in private that which I knew my public responsibility demanded.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.
37.) “I have decided to love. If you are seeking the highest good, I think you can find it through love. And the beautiful thing is that we are moving against wrong when we do it, because John was right, God is love. He who hates does not know God, but he who has love has the key that unlocks the door to the meaning of ultimate reality.”― Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes from the speech, “I’ve been to the mountain top”
38.) “But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
39.) “We don’t have to argue with anybody. We don’t have to curse and go around acting bad with our words. We don’t need any bricks and bottles, we don’t need any Molotov cocktails, we just need to go around to these stores, and to these massive industries in our country, and say, “God sent us by here, to say to you that you’re not treating his children right. And we’ve come by here to ask you to make the first item on your agenda fair treatment, where God’s children are concerned. Now, if you are not prepared to do that, we do have an agenda that we must follow. And our agenda calls for withdrawing economic support from you.”― Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes
40.) “Now, let me say as I move to my conclusion that we’ve got to give ourselves to this struggle until the end. Nothing would be more tragic than to stop at this point, in Memphis. We’ve got to see it through. And when we have our march, you need to be there. Be concerned about your brother. You may not be on strike. But either we go up together, or we go down together.”― Martin Luther King Jr.
41.) “Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation. And I want to thank God, once more, for allowing me to be here with you.”― Martin Luther King Jr.
More MLK quotes from his “I have a dream” speech
42.) “Now this would be a wonderful place for me to stop talking and to end my lecture. Number one: it would mean making a short speech and this would be a magnificent accomplishment for a Baptist preacher; but, second, it would mean that the problem is about solved in the United States and we don’t have anything to worry about. It would be a wonderful thing if every speaker in our nation could talk about this problem as a problem that once existed but no longer has existence in our nation. But if I stop at this point, I would merely be stating a fact and not telling the truth. You see a fact is merely the absence of contradiction but truth is the presence of coherence, truth is the relatedness of facts. Now it is a fact that we have come a long, long way but it isn’t the whole truth and if I stop at this point I will leave you the victims of a dangerous optimism. If I stop at this point I’m afraid that I will leave you the victims of an illusion wrapped in superficiality. So, in order to tell the truth it is necessary to move on and say not only have we come a long, long way but we have a long, long way to go before this problem is solved in our nation.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
43.) “So nonviolent resistance will give us a creative way to struggle with determination until this system is broken down and yet struggle with the right attitude so that we will work passionately and unrelentingly for first-class citizenship and never use second-class methods to gain it. With this method and the other agencies working together, I believe that we will be able to transform the jangling discourse of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
More MLK quotes from his speeches
44.) “We live in a great nation, the greatest nation, the richest nation on the face of the earth, and I submit this afternoon that any nation that can spend billions of dollars to put a man on the moon can spend billions of dollars to put a man on his own two feet here on earth.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
45.) “And I close with a personal faith and that is the glowing faith in the future that I believe somehow we will solve this problem however difficult, however much opposition we have. Our goal is freedom and somehow our destiny is tied up with the destiny of America. And I believe we are going to get to that goal of freedom because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scared though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
46.) “I accept the Nobel Prize for Peace at a moment when twenty-two million Negroes of the United States of America are engaged in a creative battle to end the long night of racial injustice. I accept this award in behalf of a civil rights movement which is moving with determination and a majestic scorn for risk and danger to establish a reign of freedom and a rule of justice.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
47.) “Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. If this is to be achieved, 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.
Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes
48.) “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality. I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction. 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.
49.) “Most of these people will never make the headlines and their names will not appear in Who’s Who. Yet when years have rolled past and when the blazing light of truth is focused on this marvelous age in which we live — men and women will know and children will be taught that we have a finer land, a better people, a more noble civilization — because these humble children of God were willing to suffer for righteousness’ sake.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes from his Nobel Prize Speech
50.) “Like anybody, 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.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
Which one is your favorite? If you had to read one everyday in the morning, which one wold you choose? How can we include more love and service into our days, and into our lifestyle?
Which Martin Luther King Jr. quotes are your favorite?
Tell us in the comment section below.