Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes: 33 Quotes on Education, Courage, Love, Racism, Violence, and Service
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is coming up.
Let’s take a look at some of the quotes from King, a legendary civil rights activist, about a range of subjects, including courage, love, and (non) violence.
-“Nonviolence is absolute commitment to the way of love. Love is not emotional bash; it is not empty sentimentalism. It is the active outpouring of one’s whole being into the being of another.”
-“The reason I can’ t follow the old eye-for-an-eye philosophy is that it ends up leaving everyone blind.”
-“World peace through nonviolent means is neither absurd nor unattainable. All other methods have failed. Thus we must begin anew. Nonviolence is a good starting point. Those of us who believe in this method can be voices of reason, sanity, and understanding amid the voices of violence, hatred, and emotion. We can very well set a mood of peace out of which a system of peace can be built.”
-“I am convinced that love is the most durable power in the world. It is not an expression of impractical idealism, but of practical realism. Far from being the pious injunction of a Utopian dreamer, love is an absolute necessity for the survival of our civilization. To return hate for hate does nothing but intensify the existence of evil in the universe. Someone must have sense enough and religion enough to cut off the chain of hate and evil, and this can only be done through love.”
-“There are two types 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 out of harmony with the moral law.”
-“The ultimate test of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and moments of convenience, but where he stands in moments of challenge and moments of controversy.”
Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King in Oslo, Norway in December 1964 where he received the Nobel Peace Prize. (AFP/Getty Images)
-“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.”
-“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.”
-“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”
-“If we are to go forward, we must go back and rediscover those precious values – that all reality hinges on moral foundations and that all reality has spiritual control.”
-“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”
-“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.”
-“Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.”
-“Never succumb to the temptation of bitterness.”
-“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
-“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
-“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.”
King waves to supporters from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial August 28, 1963 on the Mall in Washington D.C. during the “March on Washington.” (AFP/Getty Images)
The following quotes are engraved on the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington D.C., and the walls near it.
“Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”
From the “I Have A Dream” speech in Washington, D.C. on August 28, 1963. The quotation serves as the theme of the overall design of the memorial, which realizes the metaphorical mountain and stone.
“Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice, say that I was a drum major for peace, I was a drum major for righteousness, and all the other shallow things will not matter.”
From the February 4, 1968 sermon in Atlanta.
“We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
Washington National Cathedral, March 31, 1968.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
Strength to Love, 1963.
“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.”
Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, Oslo, Norway, 1964.
“Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a better person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.”
March for Integrated Schools, April 18, 1959.
“I oppose the war in Vietnam because I love America. I speak out against it not in anger but with anxiety and sorrow in my heart, and above all with a passionate desire to see our beloved country stand as a moral example of the world.”
Anti-War Conference, Los Angeles, California, February 26, 1967.
“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 we must develop a world perspective.”
Christmas sermon, Atlanta, Georgia, 1967.
“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.”
Letter from Birmingham, Alabama jail, April 16, 1963.
“I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.”
Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, Oslo, Norway, 1964
“It is not enough to say ‘We must not wage war.’ It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it. We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but the positive affirmation of peace.”
Anti-War Conference, Los Angeles, California, February 25, 1967.
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of convenience and comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Strength to Love, 1963.
US President Lyndon Johnson (l) shakes hands with the US clergyman and civil rights leader Martin Luther KIng (c) 03 July 1964 in Washington DC, after handing him a pen during the ceremonies for the signing of the civil rights bill at the White House. (AFP/Getty Images)
“Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.”
New York City, April 4, 1967.
“We are determined here in Montgomery to work and fight until justice runs ‘down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.'”
Montgomery, Alabama, December 5, 1955. Here, King borrows a verse from the Bible, the Book of Amos, which he frequently reused in speeches.
“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.”
Montgomery, Alabama, March 25, 1965.
“True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.”
Stride Toward Freedom, 1958