Quotes by Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. demonstrated the power of nonviolence to overcome even the most entrenched prejudices.


• Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.

• I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. That is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant. –Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech, Dec. 10, 1964

• Let no man pull you low enough to hate him.

• Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars… Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

• I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law.

• When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative.

• Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. –letter from Birmingham jail, April 16, 1963

• The good neighbor looks beyond the external accidents and discerns those inner qualities that make all men human and, therefore, brothers. –”Strength to Love”

• I submit to you that if a man hasn’t discovered something he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.

• 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”


A nice set of additional quotes from our friends at “Every Church a Peace Church”

  • “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
  • “Many people cry, ‘Peace, Peace’ but they refuse to do the things that make for peace…The stage of history is replete with the chants and choruses of the conquerors of old who came killing in pursuit of peace.”
  • “We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will; we will still love you. We cannot in conscience obey your unjust laws. Non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as cooperation with good.”
  • “We must pursue peaceful ends by peaceful means. I’m committed to nonviolence absolutely, I am just not going to kill anybody, whether it’s in Vietnam or here at home…If nonviolent protest fails this summer, I will continue to preach and teach it…1 plan to stand by nonviolence. …(because) only a refusal to hate or kill can put an end to the chain of violence in the world and lead toward community where people live together without fear.”
  • “Violence and nonviolence agree that suffering can be a very powerful social force. But there is a difference. Violence says suffering can be a powerful social force by inflicting it on somebody else, so this is what we do in war…The nonviolent say that suffering becomes a powerful social force when you willingly accept the violence on yourself, so that self-suffering stands at the center of the nonviolent movement… There is no easy way to create a world where people can live together…but if such a world is created…it will be accomplished by persons who have the language to put an end to suffering by willingly suffering themselves rather than inflicting suffering on others…Unearned suffering is redemptive.”
  • “Those who adhere to or follow the philosophy of nonviolence must follow a consistent principle of non-injury. They must consistently refuse to inflict injury upon another.”
  • “Humanity is waiting for something other that blind imitation of the past…1f we want truly to advance a step further, if we want to turn over a new leaf and really set a new man afoot, we must begin to turn humanity away from the long and desolate night of violence. May it not be that the new person that the world needs is the nonviolent person…A dark, desperate, sin-sick world waits for this new kind of person, this new kind of power.”
  • “We have power, a power that cannot be found in bullets and guns, but we have power. It is a power as old as the insights of Jesus of Nazareth and as modern as the techniques of Mahatma Gandhi…The Christian doctrine of love operating through the Gandhian method of nonviolence is one of the most potent weapons available…”
  • “Evil may so shape events that Caesar may occupy a palace and Christ a cross, but one day that same Christ will rise up and split history into AD and BC so that even the life of Caesar must be dated by His name…God is more fundamental than sin or evil. Good Friday must give way to Easter Sunday.”
  • “In recent months several people have said to me: ‘Since violence is the new cry, isn’t there a danger you will lose touch with the people and be out of step with the times if you don’t change your views on nonviolence?’ My answer is always the same…Occasionally in life one develops a conviction so precious and meaningful that he will stand on it till the end. That is what I have found in nonviolence. I have decided I am going to do battle for my philosophy. You ought to believe something in life, believe that thing so fervently that you will stand up with it until the end of your days. I can’t believe that God wants us to hate. I am tired of violence. What kind of nation is it that applauds nonviolence whenever Negroes face white people in the streets of the United States but applauds violence and burning and death when these same Negroes are sent to the fields of Vietnam?”
  • “A time comes when silence is betrayal…but the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony.”
  • “I am in eternal opposition to poverty, racism and militarism…and committed to nonviolence absolutely.”
  • “I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states. I have looked at her beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlay of her massive religious education buildings. Over and over again I have found myself asking: ‘What kind of people worship here? Who is their God?'”
  • “What is the summum bonum of life? I think I have discovered the highest good. It is love. This principle stands at the center of the cosmos. As John says, ‘God is love.’ He who loves is a participant in the being of God. He who hates does not know God.”
  • “There is no graded scale of essential worth (among people); there is no divine right of another. Every human being has etched in his or her personality the indelible stamp of the Creator. Every person must be respected because God loves him or her. The worth of an individual does not lie in the measure of his intellect, his racial origin or his social position. Human worth lies in relatedness to God. An individual has value because he or she has value to God.”
  • “War is not the answer. We still have a choice today; nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace and justice throughout the developing world – a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality and strength without sight.”
  • “Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter – but beautiful – struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons (and daughters) of God, and our brothers (and sisters) wait eagerly for our response.”
  • “The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.”
  • “As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems, I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But, they asked, what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I know that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today – my own government.”

additional resources:

The Vision and Challenge of Martin Luther King, Jr. (bulletin insert)

Addressing Racism: Challenge for Peacemakers

‘I have a dream’ speech

Also, search our blog for the latest postings about: Nonviolence

See other resources on Nonviolence, Notable Peacemakers, Quotes on Peace, Race

Top Ten List (pdf, html)
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