The 37 best quotes from Martin Luther King Jr.

martin luther king jr quotes the king's speech in sproul plaza in berkeley

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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., minister, activist, and prominent leader in the civil rights movement, is remembered today for promoting civil rights through nonviolence. More than 50 years have passed since he was assassinated in 1968, but Martin Luther King Jr.’s many quotes and excerpts from his powerful speeches, sermons, and books are still just as relevant today (if not more so). He wisely spoke of equality, kindnesscourage Change, forgivenessand more, and his beliefs understandably still resonate with so many.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a federal holiday marking Dr. King’s birthday, is celebrated on the third Monday of January every year. King’s actual birthday was January 15, 1929. This year, MLK Day is Monday, January 16, 2023.

From 1955 until his assassination, the Nobel Peace Prize winner participated in, helped organize, and led nonviolent marches and protests, including the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his now-famous “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

while many inspirational quotes are attributed to Dr. King, not all can be verified, and some are totally misattributed. To honor Dr. King’s legacy and remember his contributions on Martin Luther King Jr. Day (and every day), we rounded up 37 of MLK’s best quotes and included when he said them. Click on the links to find out more about Dr. King, read the full transcripts and listen to recordings of his speech, and learn more about the sentiments behind these important sayings.

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“Hate paralyzes life; love frees it. Hate confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hate darkens life; love illuminates it.”

a testament of hope: The essential writings and speeches

“Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a permanent attitude”.

—”love in actionsermon

“Love is the greatest force in the universe. It is the heartbeat of the moral cosmos. He who loves participates in the being of God.”

handwritten notemid 1960s

“Change does not roll on the wheels of inevitability, but rather comes through a continuous struggle.”

—”The death of evil at the seashoreSermon at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York, May 17, 1956

“Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.”

Sermon at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, November 6, 1956

“True peace is not simply the absence of tension, it is the presence of justice.”

step to freedom1958

“Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble fight for equal rights. You will make yourself a better person, a greater nation of your country and a better world to live in.”

March for Integrated SchoolsApril 18, 1959

“The most persistent and urgent question in life is: ‘What are you doing for others?'”

—”The three dimensions of a complete lifesermon at Amistad Baptist Church in Pasadena, CA, February 28, 1960

“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 going.”

— Address at Spelman CollegeApril 10, 1960

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he is in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he is in moments of challenge and controversy.”

strength to love1963

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can.”

strength to love1963

“Someday we will learn that the heart can never be totally right when the head is totally wrong.”

strength to love1963

“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscious stupidity.”

strength to love1963

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable web of reciprocity, bound in a single garment of fate. What affects one directly affects all indirectly.”

Birmingham Jail LetterApril 16, 1963

“So even as 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 that These truths are self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

“I have a dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., August 28, 1963

“I have a dream that my four young children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

“I have a dream” speech, August 28, 1963

“We will be able to carve in the mountain of despair a stone of hope.”

“I have a dream” speech, August 28, 1963

“Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.”

“I have a dream” speech, August 28, 1963

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

Speech in St. LouisMarch 22, 1964

“Man must develop for all human conflicts a method that rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The basis of such a method is love.”

Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speechOslo, Norway, 1964

“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the last word in reality. That is why good, temporarily defeated, is stronger than triumphant evil.”

Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speechOslo, Norway, 1964

“The time is always right to do the right thing.”

— Speech in oberlin universityOctober 22, 1964

“Violence is immoral because it feeds on hate more than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in a monologue instead of a dialogue. Violence ends up defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.

— “The search for peace and justice” nobel conferenceDecember 11, 1964

“A man dies when he refuses to stand up for what is right. A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice. A man dies when he refuses to stand up for what is true.”

— Speech in selmaAlabama, March 8, 1965

“No lie can live forever.”

—”how long, not longSpeech in Montgomery, AL, March 25, 1965

“I have also decided to stick with love, because I know that love is ultimately the only answer to humanity’s problems.”

—”Where do we go from here?sermon at the annual convention of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Atlanta, GA, August 16, 1967

“We must walk into the days ahead with bold faith in the future.”

—”Where do we go from here?sermon, August 16, 1967

“Ultimately, a genuine leader is not a consensus seeker but a consensus shaper.”

—”Internal impact of the warspeech, November 1967

“In the end, we will not remember the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

The trumpet of conscienceSteeler Conference, November 1967

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

— Washington, D.C. address, February 1968

“There comes a time when you have to take a position that is neither safe, nor political, nor popular, but you have to take it because your conscience tells you that it is the right one.”

—”A proper sense of prioritiesSpeech in Washington, D.C., February 6, 1968

“When people get caught up in what’s right and are willing to sacrifice for it, there’s no stopping point before victory.”

—”I’ve been to the top of the mountainsermon at Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee, April 3, 1968


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Jamie Kravitz (she/her) is the Associate Editor for Woman’s Day, where she oversees the brand’s digital platforms covering holidays, food and more.

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