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Martin Luther King, Jr. Quotes

Martin Luther King, Jr. was an American civil rights activist and minister promoting non-violence and racial equality. We hope you find this collection of quotes valuable in your study of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his contribution to the creative process of Life!


Martin Luther King, Jr., portrait by Frank Szasz
Martin Luther King, Jr.
b. 1-16-1929; Atlanta, GA
d. 4-4-1968; Memphis, TN
Artist: Frank V. Szasz

Martin Luther King, Jr.,
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available as poster, notecards,
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Martin Luther King, Jr.

• “Freedom has always been an expensive thing.”

“I accept the Nobel Prize for Peace at a moment when twenty-two million Negroes of the United States of America are engaged in a creative battle to end the long night of racial injustice.” Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech, 1964

“Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood.” Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech, 1964

“Success, recognition, and conformity are the bywords of the modern world where everyone seems to crave the anesthetizing security of being identified with the majority.” Strength To Love, 1963

“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”

“Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.”

“Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.” Letter from the Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963

“Agape is the love of God working in the lives of men. Agape is creative, understanding goodwill for all men. ... So when we talk about loving your enemies, we are talking about something of a creative, redemptive sort of love. ... Somehow the universe is on the side of all that’s moving toward justice and dignity and goodwill and respect.” Facing the Challenge of A New Age, Address Delivered at NAACP Emancipation Day Rally, 1 January 1957, Atlanta, GA

“And so God never causes evil but sometimes he permits evil to exist in order to carry out his creative and redemptive work? Where is God? ” Sermon Delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, 13 January 1957, Montgomery, AL

“The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community, while the aftermath of violence is tragic bitterness.” Nonviolence and Racial Justice, 6 February 1957, Chicago, IL

“All men, created alike in the image of God, are inseparably bound together.” i, 10 February 1957, New York, NY

“We must not become victimized with a philosophy of black supremacy. God is not interested merely in freeing black men and brown men and yellow men, but God is interested in freeing the whole human race. We must work with determination to create a society, not where black men are superior and other men are inferior and vice versa, but a society in which all men will live together as brothers, and respect the dignity and worth of human personality.” Give Us the Ballot, Address Delivered at the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom, 17 May 1957, Washington, DC

“Man is more than a dog to be satisfied by the bones of sensory pleasure and showy materialism: He is a being of spirit, born for the stars and created for eternity. He who lives his life on the shallow level of the social set ... deprives himself of life in its fullness and makes impossible the fullfilment of his creative development.” Advice for Living, Ebony, November 1957, Chicago, IL

“Love is creative, understanding goodwill for all men. It is the refusal to defeat any individual. When you rise to the level of love, of its great beauty and power, you seek only to defeat evil systems. Individuals who happen to be caught up in that system, you love, but you seek to defeat the system.” Loving Your Enemies, Sermon Delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, 17 November 1957, Montgomery, AL

“I believe in the future because I believe in God. And I believe that there is a personal power in this universe that works to bring the disconnected aspects of reality into a harmonious whole. I believe that there is a force, a creative force, that works at every moment to bring low prodigious hilltops of evil and to bring down gigantic mountains of injustice.” Some Things We Must Do, Address Delivered at Holt Street Baptist Church for the Second Annual Institute on Nonviolence and Social Change, 5 December 1957, Montgomery, AL

“A job, to vote and education, a socially and friendly and relaxed community are not a wild dream of centuries in the future. Indeed, if our technologically brilliant age cannot provide these things, it stands on the brink of disaster, for they are the bare minimum of existence in an advancing world. What a bit of irony it is that we have in the past decade created machines that think and with them people who fear to think.” Address Delivered at the National Biennial Convention of the American Jewish Congress, 14 May 1958, Miami Beach, FL

“You must not become morbidly absorbed in a past mistake but you must seek to outlive it by creative living in the future.” Advice for Living, Ebony, June 1958, Chicago, IL

“We have a choice in America to move toward the goal of justice in spite of the tension it will create or stop the process in an attempt to avoid tension while in reality we are tearing away the very core of our nation. This is the choice. The one we should choose? Allow the inevitable tension to arise. There can be no birth or growth without birth and growing pains. Whenever you confront the new, there is the recalcitrent of the old, a response that shall develop.” Interview by Mike Wallace, 25 June 1958, New York, NY

“I have a dream that my four little 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.”

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

King on Gandhi

“Mahatma Gandhi has done more than any other person of history to reveal that social problems can be solved without resorting to primitive methods of violence. In this sense he is more than a saint of India. He belongs – as they said of Abraham Lincoln – to the ages.” His Influence Speaks To World Conscience, 30 January 1958, New Delhi, India
(This tribute marked the tenth anniversary of the assassination of Mohandas Gandhi. It appeared jointly in the Hindustan Times and Peace News.)

“Gandhi was probably the first person in history to lift the love ethic of Jesus above mere interaction between individuals to a powerful and effective social force on a large scale.” My Pilgrimage to Nonviolence, 1 September 1958, NY

King on Lincoln

“...We all remember the great president of this United States, Abraham Lincoln, these United States rather. You remember when Abraham Lincoln was running for president of the United States, there was a man who ran all around the country talking about Lincoln. He said a lot of bad things about Lincoln, a lot of unkind things. And sometimes he would get to the point that he would even talk about his looks, saying, “You don't want a tall, lanky ignorant man like this as the president of the United States.” He went on and on and on and went around with that type of attitude and wrote about it. Finally, one day Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the United States. And if you read the great biography of Lincoln, if you read the great works about him, you will discover that as every president comes to the point, he came to the point of having to choose a Cabinet. And then came the time for him to choose a Secretary of War. He looked across the nation, and decided to choose a man by the name of Mr. Stanton. And when Abraham Lincoln stood around his advisors and mentioned this fact, they said to him: “Mr. Lincoln, are you a fool? Do you know what Mr. Stanton has been saying about you? Do you know what he has done, tried to do to you? Do you know that he has tried to defeat you on every hand? Do you know that, Mr. Lincoln? Did you read all of those derogatory statements that he made about you?” Abraham Lincoln stood before the advisors around him and said, “Oh yes, I know about it. I read about it. I've heard him myself. But after looking over the country, I find that he is the best man for the job.”

Mr. Stanton did become Secretary of War, and a few months later, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. And if you go to Washington, you will discover that one of the greatest words or statements ever made about Abraham Lincoln was made about this man Stanton. And Abraham Lincoln came to the end of his life, Stanton stood up and said, “Now he belongs to the ages.” He made a beautiful statement concerning the character and the stature of this man. If Abraham Lincoln had hated Stanton, if Abraham Lincoln had answered everything Stanton said, Abraham Lincoln would have not transformed and redeemed Stanton. Stanton would have gone to his grave hating Lincoln, and Lincoln would have gone to his grave hating Stanton. But through the power of love, Abraham Lincoln was able to redeem Stanton.” Loving Your Enemies, Sermon Delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, 17 November 1957, Montgomery, AL

King on Henry David Thoreau

“I became convinced that noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. No other person has been more eloquent and passionate in getting this idea across than Henry David Thoreau. As a result of his writings and personal witness, we are the heirs of a legacy of creative protest.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr., Autobiography

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