Civil Rights Movement Quotes

Most popular civil rights movement quotes

Justice is love correcting that which revolts against love.

justice

I want to be the white man's brother, not his brother-in-law.

race

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

love

We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.

race unity

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.

justice

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.

peace revolution

The oppressor never voluntarily gives freedom to the oppressed. You have to work for it.

freedom

Segregation is the offspring of an illicit intercourse between injustice and immorality.

African-Americans

For King, dissent did not mean disloyalty — in fact, dissent was a high form of patriotism.

Martin Luther King

If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.

diversity

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

conscience ignorance sincerity stupidity

Three hundred years of humiliation, abuse and deprivation cannot be expected to find voice in a whisper.

African-Americans

The ultimate tragedy of Birmingham was not the brutality of the bad people, but the silence of the good people.

African-Americans good and evil

For King, the condition of truth was to allow suffering to speak; for him, justice was what love looks like in public.

Martin Luther King

I know where I'm going and I know the truth, and I don't have to be what you want me to be. I'm free to be what I want.

identity

The Negro must love the white man, because the white man needs his love to remove his tensions, insecurities, and fears.

African-Americans race relations racism

There are three major social evils ... the evil of war, the evil of economic injustice, and the evil of racial injustice.

society

The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community, while the aftermath of violence is tragic bitterness.

nonviolence violence

A sixth basic fact about nonviolent resistance is that it is based on the conviction that the universe is on the side of justice.

nonviolence

A social movement that only moves people is merely a revolt. A movement that changes both people and institutions is a revolution.

African-Americans change the world revolution

Freedom only comes through persistent revolt, through persistent agitation, through persistently rising up against the system of evil.

freedom

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

African-Americans equality iconic

I have nothing to lose by standing up and following my beliefs. So I'll go to jail, so what? We have been in jail for four hundred years.

African-Americans principles racism slavery

I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.

African-Americans racist

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.

nonviolence

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.

organized labor

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.

the human condition

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.

compassion 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.

African-Americans iconic race

A fourth point that characterizes nonviolent resistance is a willingness to accept suffering without retaliation, to accept blows from the opponent without striking back.

nonviolence

I am America. I am the part you won't recognise, but get used to me. Black, confident, cocky. My name, not yours. My religion, not yours. My goals, my own. Get used to me.

identity race

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.".

equality iconic

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.

revolt

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.

inspirational

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.

African-Americans race

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.

African-Americans

The real enemy of my people is here. I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality.

African-Americans Vietnam war

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.

African-Americans nonviolence

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.

brotherhood of man iconic injustice justice

If any man claims the Negro should be content ... let him say he would willingly change the colour of his skin and go to live in the Negro section of a large city. Then and only then has he a right to such a claim.

African-Americans equality

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.

African-Americans nonviolence

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.

nonviolence violence

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.
Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?

African-Americans Vietnam war

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.

purpose of life

Martin Luther King, Jr., was the major threat to the US government and the American establishment because he dared to organize and mobilize black rage over past and present crimes against humanity targeting black folk and other oppressed people.

African-Americans Martin Luther King

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.

African-Americans

I'm not involved in a power struggle between black and white. I'm not trying to get power over white. I'm involved in a freedom struggle. Not a power struggle. We're not trying to take power away or rule anybody—we're just trying to get up from under the rulers.

race relations racism slavery

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.

freedom

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.

African-Americans power revolution

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.

nonviolence violence

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."

African-Americans inspirational rebels

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.

African-Americans organized labor

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.'

equality iconic inspirational

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.

equality famous iconic race relations

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.

hate nonviolence race relations

My conscience won't let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn't put no dogs on me, they didn't rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father. ... Shoot them for what? How can I shoot them poor people? Just take me to jail.

African-Americans iconic Vietnam war

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.

nonviolence

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.

African-Americans organized labor

I'm not gonna help nobody get something my negroes don't have. If I'm gonna die, I'll die now right here fighting you, if I'm gonna die. You my enemy. My enemies are white people, not Viet Congs or Chinese or Japanese. You my opposer when I want freedom. You my opposer when I want justice. You my opposer when I want equality. You won't even stand up for me in America for my religious beliefs, and you want me to go somewhere and fight, but you won't even stand up for me here at home.

African-Americans Vietnam war

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.

African-Americans nonviolence racism

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.

African-Americans

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.

African-Americans nonviolence

Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? No I'm not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would cost me millions of dollars. But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is here. I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality. If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people they wouldn't have to draft me, I'd join tomorrow. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I'll go to jail, so what? We've been in jail for 400 years.

African-Americans Vietnam war