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Martin Luther King, Jr. Quotes

Martin Luther King, Jr. Quotes

For Romare Bearden Collage Lesson

Optional: Have students do research to find the context of the quote they use. Enter the quote in Google search to find original source.

 

We cannot be truly Christian people so long as we flaunt the central teachings of Jesus: brotherly love and the Golden Rule.

The spirit of Lincoln still lives; that spirit born of the teachings of the Nazarene, who promised mercy to the merciful, who lifted the lowly, strengthened the weak, ate with publicans, and made the captives free.

It is quite easy for me to think of a God of love mainly because I grew up in a family where love was central and where lovely relationships were ever present.

 

My parents would always tell me that I should not hate the white man, but that it was my duty as a Christian to love him.

mlkWe have waited for more than three hundred and forty years for our constitutional and God-given rights.

 

A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law.

 

I'm grateful to God that, through the Negro church, the dimension of nonviolence entered our struggle.

 

So the question is not whether we will be extremist but what kind of extremist will we be. Will we be extremists for hate or will we be extremists for love?

 

We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands.

 

When these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters they were in reality standing up for the best in the American dream and the most sacred values in our Judeo-Christian heritage, and thusly, carrying our whole nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in the formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed - we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.

This will be the day, this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning "My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!"

 

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every tenement and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last."

 

I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive goodwill will proclaim the rule of the land.

 

When years have rolled past and when the blazing light of truth is focused on this marvelous age in which we live -- men and women will know and children will be taught that we have a finer land, a better people, a more noble civilization -- because these humble children of God were willing to suffer for righteousness' sake.

 

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Our nettlesome task is to discover how to organize our strength into compelling power.

 

A man who won't die for something is not fit to live.

There is nothing more dangerous than to build a society, with a large segment of people in that society, who feel that they have no stake in it; who feel that they have nothing to lose. People who have a stake in their society, protect that society, but when they don't have it, they unconsciously want to destroy it.

 

If a man is called to be a streetsweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great streetsweeper who did his job well.

 

I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become reality. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.

 

Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. It is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding; it seeks to annihilate rather than to convert.

 

Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love.


A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

The limitation of riots, moral questions aside, is that they cannot win and their participants know it. Hence, rioting is not revolutionary but reactionary because it invites defeat. It involves an emotional catharsis, but it must be followed by a sense of futility.

Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.

Man was born into barbarism when killing his fellow man was a normal condition of existence. He became endowed with a conscience. And he has now reached the day when violence toward another human being must become as abhorrent as eating another's flesh.

The curse of poverty has no justification in our age. The time has come for us to civilize ourselves by the total, direct and immediate abolition of poverty.

The Black Power slogan did not spring full grown from the head of some philosophical Zeus. It was born from the wounds of despair and disappointment. It is a cry of daily hurt and persistent pain.

Discrimination is a hellhound that gnaws at Negroes in every waking moment of their lives to remind them that the lie of their inferiority is accepted as truth in the society dominating them.

The slums are the handiwork of a vicious system of the white society; Negroes live in them, but they do not make them, any more than a prisoner makes a prison.

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.

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.

 

The chain reaction of evil--hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars--must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.

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.

Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity.

 

Hate destroys a man's sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.


Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.

A life is sacred. Property is intended to serve life, and no matter how much we surround it with rights and respect, it has no personal being. It is part of the earth man walks on; it is not man.

The bombs [of war] explode at home; they destroy the hopes and possibilities for a decent America.

We must combine the toughness of the serpent and the softness of the dove, a tough mind and a tender heart.

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.

Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.

The Negroes of America had taken the President, the press and the pulpit at their word when they spoke in broad terms of freedom and justice. But the absence of brutality and unregenerate evil is not the presence of justice. To stay murder is not the same thing as to ordain brotherhood.

Many of the ugly pages of American history have been obscured and forgotten... America owes a debt of justice which it has only begun to pay.

Man is man because he is free to operate within the framework of his destiny. He is distinguished from animals by his freedom to do evil or to do good and to walk the high road of beauty or tread the low road of ugly degeneracy.

A good many observers have remarked that if equality could come at once the Negro would not be ready for it. I submit that the white American is even more unprepared.

Nonviolent action, the Negro saw, was the way to supplement, not replace, the progress of change. It was the way to divest himself of passivity without arraying himself in vindictive force.

If a man hasn't discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live.

To be a Negro in America is to hope against hope.

Being a Negro in America means trying to smile when you want to cry. It means the pain of watching your children grow up with clouds of inferiority in their mental skies. It means having your legs cut off, and then being condemned for being a cripple.

The question is not whether we will be extremist but what kind of extremist will we be.

We are not makers of history. We are made by history.

 

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."


There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.

 

Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.


I decided early to give my life to something eternal and absolute. Not to these little gods that are here today and gone tomorrow, but to God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.


Discrimination is a hellhound that gnaws at Negroes in every waking moment of their lives to remind them that the lie of their inferiority is accepted as truth in the society dominating them.

 

I just want to do God's will. And he’s allowed me to go to the mountain. And I've looked over, and I've seen the promised land! I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land.


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.


The sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality.


A riot is the language of the unheard.


Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.


If physical death is the price that I must pay to free my white brothers and sisters from a permanent death of the spirit, then nothing can be more redemptive.

Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.

 

A human can't ride your back unless its bent.

 

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

 

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

 

We know finite disappointment, but we know infinite hope.

 

Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.

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

 

The time is always right to do what is right.

Life’s piano can only produce melodies of brotherhood (and sisterhood) when it is recognized that the black keys are as basic, necessary and beautiful as the white keys.

 

All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.

 

Everything that we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see.

 

Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.

Sooner or later, all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together.

Even though I have never had an abrupt conversion experience, religion has been real to me and closely knitted to life. In fact the two cannot be separated; religion for me is life.

Love is the key to the problems of the world.

Remember, if I am stopped, this movement will not be stopped, because God is with this movement.

 

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