14 of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Most Inspirational Quotes

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday is celebrated each year in the U.S. on the third Monday of January.

King was the primary spokesman for nonviolent action during the U.S. Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.  He led struggles against segregation from the late 50s to the late 60s, including the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom where he delivered a speech to 250,000 people gathered on the Washington Mall.

As he was speaking to the crowd, gospel singer Mahalia Jackson shouted, “Tell them about the dream, Martin!”  King set aside his prepared speech, and launched extemporaneously into the well-known “I Have a Dream” part, which brought him international recognition as one of the great modern orators.

In 1964, King received the Nobel Peace Prize for combating inequality by using nonviolent means.

He was assassinated on April 4, 1968, as he stood on the second-floor balcony of the Lorraine Motel in in Memphis, Tennessee, where he had come to support a protest for equal pay by black sanitary public works employees.

It has been reported that his last words were to musician Ben Branch, who was going to perform that evening at an event King was scheduled to attend: “Ben, make sure you play ‘Take My Hand, Precious Lord’ in the meeting tonight. Play it real pretty.”

Here are just a few of this great man’s many inspirational words:

1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

“Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.” 
Sermon, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church (November 6, 1956)

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
Strength to Love (pub. 1963)

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”
Speech, “Conquering Self-Centeredness,” Montgomery, Alabama (Aug. 11, 1957

“It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.”
Quoted in The Wall Street Journal (Nov. 13, 1962)

King wrote his "Letter from Birmingham Jail" after being arrested at a protest on April 12, 1963

King wrote his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” after being arrested at a protest on April 12, 1963

Source: nola.com


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

Sermon, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church (November 17, 1957)

“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.”
Sermon, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church (November 17, 1957)

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
Speech, Selma Alabama (March 8, 1965)

“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.”
Strength to Love (pub. 1963)

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“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.”
Speech, “A Proper Sense of Priorities” Washington, D.C. (February 6, 1968)

“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”  
Speech, Finney Chapel at Oberlin College (Oct. 22, 1964)

“An Individual has not started living fully until they can rise above the narrow confines of individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of humanity.”
Speech, “Conquering Self-Centeredness,” Montgomery, Alabama (Aug. 11, 1957)

King, with his wife Coretta Scott King and their children Yolanda, Dexter, Bernice, and Martin III.

King, with his wife Coretta Scott King and their children Yolanda, Dexter, Bernice, and Martin III.

Source: znanje.org

“We are called to play the good Samaritan on life’s roadside… True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar.” 
Speech, “Beyond Vietnam,” New York, N.Y. (April 4, 1967)

“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”
Speech, Finney Chapel at Oberlin College (Oct. 22, 1964)

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
Speech, St. Louis, Missouri (March 22, 1964)

View of the site of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Lorraine Motel, which is now a part of the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN. The wreath marks the approximate site of the assassination. ("Lorraine Motel 04 15 Mar 2012" by DavGreg - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons)

View of the site of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Lorraine Motel, which is now a part of the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN. The wreath marks the approximate site of the assassination.


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