22 of the Most Powerful Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes

His words stand the test of time.

22 of the Most Powerful Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes
22 of the Most Powerful Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes

More than 50 years after his assassination in 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is remembered as an activist, a prominent leader in the civil rights movement, a pioneering historical Black figure, and a wordsmith. His impact is still felt today, as his daughter carries on his legacy, and we continue to look to him for strength when the fight for racial equality seems unending. Throughout his years of public service, the Nobel Peace Prize winner wrote and delivered speeches—the most notable being his 1963 “I Have a Dream” address—that provided wisdom that still holds true. We’ve included 22 of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s most famous quotes about kindness, courage, unity, and beyond that are sure to inspire. One of our favorites? “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 moving forward.”

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

The iconic civil rights leader wrote this in a rare handwritten letter he penned in the mid-1960s. It was uncovered through the memorabilia company Moments in Time and reported by CNN.

“Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.”

Martin Luther King Jr. wrote this in the “The Purpose of Education,” a 1947 article for Morehouse College’s student newspaper.

“True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.”

From his 1957 book Stride Toward Freedom.

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

From his 1956 “The Most Durable Power” sermon

“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 moving forward.”

From his April 1960 address at Spelman College.

“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.”

From his 1963 book, Strength to Love.

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

From Strength to Love.

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

From Strength to Love.

“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.”

From his famous August 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech.

“We will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.”

From his “I Have A Dream” speech.

“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

From his April 1963 “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

“We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.”

From his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

“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.”

From his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech.

“The beauty of genuine brotherhood and peace is more precious than diamonds or silver or gold.”

From his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech.

“Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love…violence ends up defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.”

From his December 1964 Nobel lecture.

“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.”

From his 1967 Christmas sermon on peace.

“Ultimately a genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.”

From his November 1967 “The Domestic Impact of the War in Vietnam” speech.

“Hate is too great a burden to bear. I have decided to love.”

From his 1967 “Where Do We Go From Here?” address.

“I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind’s problems.”

From his “Where Do We Go From Here?” address.

“We must walk on in the days ahead with an audacious faith in the future.”

From his “Where Do We Go From Here?” address.

“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.”

From his February 1968 “A Proper Sense of Priorities” speech.

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

From the 2002 Coretta Scott King-edited book, In My Own Words.

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