Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes
Most popular Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes
I have a dream . . .
All labor has dignity.
A man can't ride your back unless it's bent.
The time is always right to do what is right.
A riot is at bottom the language of the unheard.
Nothing pains some people more than having to think.
We are not makers of history. We are made by history.
Labor cannot stand still long or it will slip backward.
Justice is love correcting that which revolts against love.
The moral arc of the universe bends at the elbow of justice.
I want to be the white man's brother, not his brother-in-law.
That old law about "an eye for an eye" leaves everybody blind.
There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.
The laws are not to change the heart but to restrain the heartless.
We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.
The arm of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.
We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
Our problem is not to be rid of fear but rather to harness and master it.
We must constantly build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.
In order to love your enemies, you must begin by analyzing [ your ] self.
Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.
We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.
You see, no labor is really menial unless you're not getting adequate wages.
Man is man because he is free to operate within the framework of his destiny.
True sympathy is the personal concern which demands the giving of one's soul.
Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?
We, the Negro people and labor ... inevitably will sow the seeds of liberalism.
Be a sinner and sin strongly, but more strongly have faith and rejoice in Christ.
Noncooperation with evil is just as much a moral duty as is cooperation with good.
Standing beside love is always justice, and we are only using the tools of justice.
Whatever may be the customs and laws of a country, the women of it decide the morals.
Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity.
Ultimately a genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.
Segregation is the offspring of an illicit intercourse between injustice and immorality.
The oppressor never voluntarily gives freedom to the oppressed. You have to work for it.
In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
We must use time creatively, and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right.
Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.
Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
That within the best of us, there is some evil, and within the worst of us, there is some good.
I submit to you that if a man hasn't discovered something he will die for, he isn't fit to live.
Love is creative, understanding goodwill for all men. It is the refusal to defeat any individual.
We must use time creatively - and forever realize that the time is always hope to do great things.
Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.
Every crisis has both its dangers and its opportunities. Each can spell either salvation or doom.
The ultimate solution to the race problem lies in the willingness of men to obey the unenforceable.
There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage.
Three hundred years of humiliation, abuse and deprivation cannot be expected to find voice in a whisper.
All progress is precarious, and the solution of one problem brings us face to face with another problem.
We must combine the toughness of the serpent and the softness of the dove, a tough mind and a tender heart.
Reason, devoid of the purifying power of faith, can never free itself from distortions and rationalizations.
The past is prophetic in that it asserts loudly that wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
The ultimate tragedy of Birmingham was not the brutality of the bad people, but the silence of the good people.
My study of Gandhi convinced me that true pacifism is not nonresistance to evil, but nonviolent resistance to evil.
It is a dark day indeed when men cannot work to implement the ideal of brotherhood without being labeled communist.
We, too, realize that when human values are subordinated to blind economic forces, human beings can become human scrap.
The Negro must love the white man, because the white man needs his love to remove his tensions, insecurities, and fears.
There are three major social evils ... the evil of war, the evil of economic injustice, and the evil of racial injustice.
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.
Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.
The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community, while the aftermath of violence is tragic bitterness.
Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illumines it.
But we must remember that it's possible to affirm the existence of God with your lips and deny his existence with your life.
A nation or civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men purchases its own spiritual death on the installment plan.
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.
The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace, and brotherhood.
A sixth basic fact about nonviolent resistance is that it is based on the conviction that the universe is on the side of justice.
A social movement that only moves people is merely a revolt. A movement that changes both people and institutions is a revolution.
Science investigates; religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge which is power. Religion gives man wisdom which is control.
Freedom only comes through persistent revolt, through persistent agitation, through persistently rising up against the system of evil.
No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
The sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality.
All who call on God in true faith, earnestly from the heart, will certainly be heard, and will receive what they have asked and desired.
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.
Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.
Morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated. Judicial decrees may not change the heart, but they can restrain the heartless.
The great problem facing modern man is that the means by which we live (Help him God) have outdistanced the spiritual ends for which we live.
A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
The vast majority of Negroes in our country are still perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.
I never intend to become adjusted to the madness of militarism and the self-defeating method of physical violence. I call upon you to be maladjusted.
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.
Constructive ends can never give absolute moral justification to destructive means, because in the final analysis the end is preexistent in the means.
A second basic fact that characterizes nonviolence is that it does not seek to defeat or humiliate the opponent, but to win his friendship and understanding.
Never succumb to the temptation of becoming bitter. As you press for justice, be sure to move with dignity and discipline, using only the instruments of love.
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.
The two most dynamic and cohesive liberal forces in the country are the labor movement and the Negro freedom movement. Together we can be architects of democracy.
The Kingdom of God is neither the thesis of individual enterprise nor the antithesis of collective enterprise, but a synthesis which reconciles the truths of both.
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.
Discover the element of good in your enemy. And as you seek to hate him, find the center of goodness and place your attention there and you will take a new attitude.
Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. It is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals.
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.
The means by which we live have outdistanced the ends for which we live. Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.
Even in the inevitable moments when all seems hopeless, men know that without hope they cannot really live, and in agonizing desperation they cry for the bread of hope.
A fourth point that characterizes nonviolent resistance is a willingness to accept suffering without retaliation, to accept blows from the opponent without striking back.
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.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.".
When I am angry I can write, pray, and preach well, for then my whole temperament is quickened, my understanding sharpened, and all mundane vexations and temptations depart.
I've been to the mountaintop 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.
We've got to revolt in such a way that after revolt is over we can live with people as their brothers and their sisters. Our aim must never be to defeat them or humiliate them.
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood.
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.
The real problem is that through our scientific genius we've made of the world a neighborhood, but through our moral and spiritual genius we've failed to make of it a brotherhood.
If America does not use her vast resources of wealth to end poverty and make it possible for all of God's children to have the basic necessities of life, she, too, will go to hell.
When he [the African-American] seeks opportunity, he is told, in effect, to lift himself by his own bootstraps, advice which does not take into account the fact that he is barefoot.
History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.
Courage and cowardice are antithetical. Courage is an inner resolution to go forward in spite of obstacles and frightening situations; cowardice is a submissive surrender to circumstance.
The Negro turned his back on force not only because he knew he could not win his freedom through physical force but also because he believed that through physical force he could lose his soul.
When evil men plot, good men must plan. When evil men burn and bomb, good men must build and bind. When evil men shout ugly words of hatred, good men must commit themselves to the glories of love.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.
Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable ... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.
Agape does not begin by discriminating between worthy and unworthy people, or any qualities people possess. It begins by ... Therefore, agape makes no distinction between friends and enemy; it is directed toward both.
Both a practical and a moral answer to the Negro's cry for justice, nonviolent direct action proved that it could win victories without losing wars, and so became the triumphant tactic of the Negro Revolution of 1963.
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.
The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community. The aftermath of nonviolence is redemption. The aftermath of nonviolence is reconciliation. The aftermath of violence are emptiness and bitterness.
Now you know when there is mass unemployment and underemployment in the black community they call it a social problem. When there is mass unemployment and underemployment in the white community they call it a depression.
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.
There are some things so dear, some things so precious, some things so eternally true, that they are worth dying for. And I submit to you that if a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live.
One day we will learn that the heart can never be totally right if the head is totally wrong. Only through the bringing together of head and heart—intelligence and goodness—shall man rise to a fulfillment of his true nature.
If falls your lot to be a street sweeper in life, sweep streets like Raphael painted pictures. Sweep streets like Michelangelo carved marble. Sweep streets like Beethoven composed music. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry.
It may well be that we will have to repent in this generation. Not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, "Wait on time."
The most dangerous type of atheism is not theoretical atheism but practical atheism (Amen) — that's the most dangerous type. (Lord have mercy) And the world, even the church, is filled up with people who pay lip service to God and not life service.
But he who sells you the token instead of the coin always retains the power to revoke its worth, and to command you to get off the bus before you have reached your destination. Tokenism is a promise to pay. Democracy, in its finest sense, is payment.
First, politics is the process by which we in a democracy create laws from our beliefs. Second, politics is the process of determining who gets how much of the whats, whens, wheres, and hows in five areas: income, education, health care, housing, and justice.
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 genuine revolution of values means, in the final analysis, that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.
Men hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don't know each other; they don't know each other because they can't communicate with each other; they can't communicate with each other because they are separated from each other.
I still believe that standing up for the truth of God is the greatest thing in the world. This is the end of life. The end of life is not to be happy. The end of life is not to achieve pleasure and avoid pain. The end of life is to do the will of God, come what may.
Freedom is never given to anybody. For the oppressor has you in domination because he plans to keep you there, and he never voluntarily gives it up. And that is where the strong resistance comes. Privileged classes never give up their privileges without strong resistance.
Capitalism is always in danger of inspiring men to be more concerned about making a living than making a life. 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 humanity.
Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.
I am afraid that many among you are more concerned about making a living than making a life. You are prone to judge the success of your profession by the index of your salary and the size of the wheelbase on your automobile, rather than the quality of your service to humanity.
The aftermath of violence is always bitterness; the aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community so that when the battle is over, it's over, and a new love and a new understanding and a new relationship comes into being between the oppressed and the oppressor.
A society that performs miracles with machinery has the capacity to make some miracles for men if it values men as highly as it values machines. This is really the crux of the problem. Are we as concerned for human values and human resources as we are for material and mechanical values?
If you will protest courageously, and yet with dignity and Christian love, when the history books are written in future generations, the historians will have to pause and say, "There lived a great people-a black people-who injected new meaning and dignity into the veins of civilization."
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.
The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.
Organized labor has proved to be one of the most powerful forces in removing the blight of segregation and discrimination from our nation. Labor leaders wisely realize that the forces that are anti-Negro are usually anti-labor, and vice versa. And so organized labor is one of the Negro's strongest allies in the struggle for freedom.
Now, I say to you today my friends, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: - 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'
There was a time when the Church was very powerful. It was during that time when the early Christians rejoiced when they were deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the Church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character. I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood.
The first question the Levite asked was, "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?" That's the question before you tonight. . . . If I do not stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to them? That's the question.
You must come to see that it is possible for a man to be self-centered in his self-denial and self-righteous in his self-sacrifice. He may be generous in order to feed his ego and pious in order to feed his pride. Man has the tragic capacity to relegate a heightening virtue to a tragic vice. Without love benevolence becomes egotism, and martyrdom becomes spiritual pride.
To meet hate with retaliatory hate would do nothing but intensify the existence of evil in the universe. Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love; we must meet physical force with soul force. Our aim must never be to defeat or humiliate the white man, but to win his friendship and understanding.
Above all, I see the preaching ministry as a dual process. On the one hand I must attempt to change the soul of individuals so that their societies may be changed. On the other I must attempt to change the societies so that the individual soul will have a change. Therefore, I must be concerned about unemployment, slums, and economic insecurity. I am a profound advocate of the social gospel.
When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that 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 in the words of that old Negro spiritual, Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!
True nonviolent resistance is not unrealistic submission to evil power. It is rather a courageous confrontation of evil by the power of love, in the faith that it is better to be the recipient of violence than the inflicter of it, since the latter only multiplies the existence of violence and bitterness in the universe, while the former may develop a sense of shame in the opponent, and thereby bring about a transformation and change of heart.
I still believe that organized labor can be one of the most powerful instruments to do away with this evil that confronts our nation that we refer to as segregation and discrimination. It is certainly true that the forces that are anti-Negro are by and large anti-labor, and with the coming together of the powerful influence of labor and all people of goodwill in the struggle for freedom and human dignity, I can assure you that we have a powerful instrument.
As a race we must struggle passionately and unrelentingly to the goal of justice, but we must be sure that our hands are clean in the struggle. We must never struggle with falsehood, hate, or malice; we must never become bitter. We must never succumb to the temptation of using violence in the struggle, for if this happens, unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness, and our chief legacy to the future will be an endless reign of meaningless chaos.
I do not come to you as a prophet of doom; I come to you as one who has accepted the challenge of our urban ghettos. This is a more difficult challenge than the one we face in the South, for we will not be dealing with constitutional rights; we will be dealing with fundamental human rights. It is a constitutional right for a man to be able to vote, but the human right to a decent house is as categorically imperative and morally absolute as was that constitutional right. It is not a constitutional right that men have jobs, but it is a human right.
When, for decades, you have been able to make a man compromise his manhood by threatening him with a cruel and unjust punishment, and when suddenly he turns upon you and says: "Punish me. I do not deserve it. But because I do not deserve it, I will accept it so that the world will know that I am right and you are wrong," you hardly know what to do. You feel defeated and secretly ashamed. You know that this man is as good a man as you are; that from some mysterious source he has found the courage and the conviction to meet physical force with soul force.