The 42 most inspiring quotes from Martin Luther King Jr.

Observed on Monday, January 16, 2023, the federal holiday is set aside to honor the legacy of the late civil rights leader. As usual, banks, post offices and other government agencies will be closed for the holiday.

A Baptist activist, author and minister, King’s inspirational speeches and peaceful protests galvanized the American civil rights movement, bringing injustices and inequalities suffered by African Americans to the forefront of public opinion.

In honor of their contributions, we’ve rounded up some of Martin Luther King Jr.’s most moving quotes from landmark speeches like “I Have a Dream,” which King delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, as well as his acceptance speech after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.

Though his life was tragically cut short in April 1968, King’s achievements and words of hope live on, teaching new generations that love, freedom and equality are never out of reach.

Whether you use her powerful words in an Instagram post or just for your own reflection, read on and remember.

  • “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.” — Martin Luther King Jr., “I Have a Dream”

  • “We cannot walk alone. And as we walk we must make the promise that we will always march forward. We can not turn back”. — Martin Luther King Jr., “I Have a Dream”

  • “From the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” — Martin Luther King Jr., “I Have a Dream”

  • “We can say that our feet are tired, but our souls are rested.” — Martin Luther King Jr., “Our God Keeps Marching On!”

  • “Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time.” — Martin Luther King Jr., 1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech

  • “Let us, therefore, continue our triumphant march toward the realization of the American dream.” — Martin Luther King Jr., “Our God Keeps Marching On!”

  • “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can. — Martin Luther King Jr., “Strength to Love”

  • “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable web of reciprocity, bound in a single garment of destiny. What affects one directly affects all indirectly.” — Martin Luther King Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail”

  • “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” — Martin Luther King Jr., Washington DC speech

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  • “If we make the right decision, we can hasten the day, across America and around the world, when justice will flow like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” — Martin Luther King Jr., “Beyond Vietnam: Time to Break the Silence”

  • “I have the audacity to believe that people everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.” — Martin Luther King Jr., 1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech

  • “It is not enough to say ‘We must not make war.’ It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it. We must focus not only on the negative expulsion of war, but on the positive affirmation of peace.” — Martin Luther King Jr., “The Quest for Peace and Justice”

  • “The battle is in our hands. And we can respond with creative nonviolence to the call to higher ground to which the new directions of our struggle summon us.” — Martin Luther King Jr., “Our God Keeps Marching On!”

  • “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.” — Martin Luther King Jr., “Strength to Love”

  • “Each nation must now develop a paramount loyalty to humanity as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.” — Martin Luther King Jr., “Beyond Vietnam: Time to Break the Silence”

  • “We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience.” — Martin Luther King Jr., “Our God Keeps Marching On!”

  • “True peace is not simply the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.” — Martin Luther King Jr., “Step to Freedom”

  • “Sooner or later, all the people of the world will have to find a way to live together in peace, thus transforming this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood.” — Martin Luther King Jr., 1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech

  • “We are determined here in Montgomery to work and fight until justice runs like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.” — Martin Luther King Jr., “The Montgomery Bus Boycott”

  • “Love is somehow the key that opens the door that leads to the ultimate reality.” — Martin Luther King Jr., “Beyond Vietnam: Time to Break the Silence”

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  • “We will win because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it leans towards justice.” — Martin Luther King Jr., “Staying Awake Through a Great Revolution”

  • “We have to stick together and keep unity.” — Martin Luther King Jr., “I’ve been to the top of the mountain”

  • “I refuse to accept the view that humanity is so tragically bound up in the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright dawn of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.” — Martin Luther King Jr., 1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech

  • “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the last word in reality.” — Martin Luther King Jr., 1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech

  • “We are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice runs like waters, and justice like a mighty stream.” — Martin Luther King Jr., “I Have a 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.'” — Martin Luther King Jr., “I Have a Dream”

  • “If you want to say I was a drum major, say I was a drum major for justice. Say I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for justice. And all the other superficial things won’t matter.” — Martin Luther King Jr., “The Instinct of the Drum Major”

  • “Selma, Alabama, became a shining moment in man’s consciousness. If the worst of American life lurked in its dark streets, the best of American instincts passionately surged across the country to overcome it.” — Martin Luther King Jr., “Our God Keeps Marching On!”

  • “We must speak with all the humility that befits our limited vision, but we must speak.” — Martin Luther King Jr., “Beyond Vietnam: It’s Time to Break the Silence”

  • “Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, fight for a new world.” — Martin Luther King Jr., “Beyond Vietnam: Time to Break the Silence”

  • “It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world, it is nonviolence or nonexistence.” — Martin Luther King Jr., “I’ve been to the top of the mountain”

  • “Make a race of humanity. Commit to the noble fight for equal rights. You will make a better person out of yourself, a greater nation out of your country, and a better world to live in.” — Martin Luther King Jr., Speech at the Youth March for Integrated Schools

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  • “If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means that we must develop a global perspective.” — Martin Luther King Jr., “A Christmas Sermon on Peace”

  • “We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character: that is the goal of true education.” — Martin Luther King Jr., “The Purpose of Education”

  • “Non-violence is an absolute commitment to the path of love. Love is not an emotional blow; it is not empty sentimentality. It is the active outpouring of one’s entire being into the being of another.” —Martin Luther King Jr., 1957

  • “World peace through nonviolent means is neither absurd nor unattainable.” — Martin Luther King Jr., “Dreams of a Brighter Tomorrow”

  • “I am convinced that love is the most enduring power in the world. It is not an expression of impractical idealism, but practical realism.” —Martin Luther King Jr., 1957

  • “There are two kinds of laws: there are just laws and there are unjust laws… What is the difference between the two?… An unjust law is a man-made code that is not in harmony with the moral law.” —Martin Luther King Jr., 1963

  • “If we assume that humanity has the right to survive, then we must find an alternative to war and destruction.” — Martin Luther King Jr., “Pilgrimage to Nonviolence”

  • “They are talking about peace as a distant goal, as an end that we seek, but one day we must come to see that peace is not simply a distant goal that we seek, but rather a means by which we reach that goal. We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means.” — Martin Luther King Jr., “A Christmas Sermon on Peace”

  • “I believe that even amid today’s mortar blasts and whistling bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow.” — Martin Luther King Jr., 1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech

  • “We’re moving down a mighty highway toward the city of Liberty. There will be winding points. There will be bends and rough spots, and we’ll be tempted to retaliate with the same kind of force the opposition will use. But I’m going to tell you, ‘Wait wait a minute, Birmingham. Someone’s got to have some sense in Birmingham.'” —Martin Luther King Jr., 1963