33 Inspiring Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes!

For Martin Luther King day, we thought we'd create a quote to share. I didn't expect to have such a hard time choosing one! And I was also surprised that more than just being outspoken about civil rights, love and non-violence, that he was also very aware of the issues with Capitalism, how poverty affects us, blocks to societal change - and human nature. Many of his quotes also ring true with the current "Me Too" movement!

In addition he also talked about civil disobedience (see quote below), and was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi's nonviolent activism.

I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law. Martin Luther King, Jr.

So I thought I'd create a post with a collection of quotes, along with a brief "history" for people from around the globe who might not know much about Martin Luther King Jr. This plan was slightly hampered because he achieved so much that it's hard to write something short that isn't just a list of facts and dates.

So I hope you'll forgive the "potted" history, and if you'd like to know more - perhaps read a biography! Here's the compiled autobiography I plan on reading about Martin Luther King Jr. (it's on my wishlist). And if anyone has a better book suggestion, let me know!

A brief history of Martin Luther King Jr., American Baptist minister and Civil Rights Activist

Born Martin King on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia in the United States, his father was the Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr. and his mother, Alberta Williams King. His mother was a talented organ player and choir leader, taking the young Martin Luther King Jr. to many churches to sing - which he was both good at and enjoyed.

Martin Luther King Jr. chose to add Luther to his name to honour the German Protestant religious reformer Martin Luther early on in his life.

His father was outspoken about racial segregation and Martin Luther King Jr. (as many people did at the time) experienced many racially-based humiliations. One that is believed to have influenced him heavily is being banned from friendship with a white boy by the friend's father at the age of 6.

For much of his life, King experienced depression and at age 12 apparently blamed himself for his grandmother's death, jumping out of a second-story window.

At high school he was an active debater and honed his public speaking skills. He graduated from college in 1948 with a BA in Sociology. His next step was to enrol in a Seminary, and he graduated with a Bachelors degree in Divinity in 1951.

He married Coretta Scott in 1953 and had four children - two girls and two boys. Interestingly he apparently restricted Coretta's role in the civil rights movement, believing she should be a housewife and mother. He was also said to have a number of extra-marital affairs, which his wife apparently tolerated. But it isn't clear how much of this is exaggerated by the FBI who were monitoring King and trying to discredit him.

EDITORS NOTE: Personally, I would like to know more about King's attitude to women, and his reasons for limiting his wife's role in the civil rights movement. I like to think that, in part, he was trying to protect his wife and children from the death threats, and the violence that threatened to (and often did) erupt during the marches and speeches.

So, King became active in the civil rights movement early in his career, initially becoming known  for his role in leading the 1955-56 boycott of the Montgomery public bus system, following the incident where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus. During this time, tensions ran extremely high and not only was King's home bombed, but he was also arrested. A ruling was eventually made by the district court that ended segregation on all public buses in Montgomery and it was this that made King famous as a civil rights leader.

King organized the famous March on Washington in 1963 where he gave his famous "I have a Dream" speech. He also helped to organize the 1965 Selma to Montgomery Marches which the 2014 movie "Selma" is based on.

In 1964, he received the Nobel Peace Prize (becoming the youngest recipient) for combating racial inequality through nonviolent resistance, and mentioned Gandhi and his methods in his acceptance speech.

Other interesting facts are that he supported the use of family planning and was awarded the Planned Parenthood Federation of America's Margaret Sanger Award in 1966. He also opposed the Vietnam War and made a speech in 1967 called, "Beyond Vietnam" that alienated many people at the time.

He was sadly assassinated in Memphis Tennessee in April 1968. At the time he was planning a national occupation of Washington DC, which was to be named "The Poor People's Campaign". He was just 39 years old.

After his death, Martin Luther King Jr. was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and Presidential Medal of Freedom. Jimmy Carter said of awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom:

"Martin Luther King Jr. was the conscience of his generation. He gazed upon the great wall of segregation and saw that the power of love could bring it down. From the pain and exhaustion of his fight to fulfill the promises of our founding fathers for our humblest citizens, he wrung his eloquent statement of his dream for America. He made our nation stronger because he made it better. His dream sustains us yet." Jimmy Carter

Finally, in 1971, Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created, becoming a federal holiday in 1986. A memorial was dedicated to King on the National Mall in Washington in 2011.

After King's death, his wife Coretta Scott King (and their children) continued his civil rights legacy, including creating the King Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

Here are 33 Inspiring Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes:

  1. Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.
  2. That old law about 'an eye for an eye' leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing.
  3. Capitalism does not permit an even flow of economic resources. With this system, a small privileged few are rich beyond conscience, and almost all others are doomed to be poor at some level. That's the way the system works. And since we know that the system will not change the rules, we are going to have to change the system.
  4. 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.
  5. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
  6. In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
  7. We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.
  8. Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.
  9. 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.
  10. Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.
  11. Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.
  12. Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.
  13. 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.
  14. There is nothing more tragic than to find an individual bogged down in the length of life, devoid of breadth.
  15. Pity may represent little more than the impersonal concern which prompts the mailing of a check, but true sympathy is the personal concern which demands the giving of one's soul.
  16. The time is always right to do what is right.
  17. The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be... The nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.
  18. Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.
  19. Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'
  20. The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict.
  21. I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
  22. Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.
  23. We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.
  24. A riot is the language of the unheard.
  25. 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.
  26. Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals.
  27. When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative.
  28. A right delayed is a right denied.
  29. Any religion that professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them and the social conditions that cripple them is a spiritually moribund religion awaiting burial.
  30. The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood.
  31. 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.
  32. Means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek.
  33. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.


NOTE: Just click on the individual quote images to see a larger version to save it for sharing!

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4 Comments

  1. Chris Kenber

    Martin Luther King is an inspiration to all, and his power and stance will ensure that he is still looked to for inspiration decades in the future.

    Reply
  2. Happy Birthday

    Decades after his death, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s words about compassion and the fight for justice and equality continue to inspire people.

    Reply

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