23 Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes for MLK Day

(Last Updated On: January 18, 2021)

It’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day, so it’d probably be nice to look at some things its namesake said. Born on January 15, 1929, Martin Luther King Jr. was rather… Efficient with his education. That is to say he was accepted to Morehouse University at the age of 15, finishing his PhD dissertation in systematic theology in 1954–meaning he finished it in his mid 20s. By 1955 he became one of the most prominent figureheads of the American Civil Rights Movement, keeping that mantle until he was assassinated by 1968. Involved in many facets of the American Civil Rights Movement (from the Albany Movement, the Montgomery bus boycott, and the Birmingham campaign), your journey through the American education system (if you’re an American reader here) probably focused primarily on King’s I Have a Dream speech. But Martin Luther King Jr. had a lot to say, so let’s look at some quotes from him as we celebrate MLK Day. 

Further Reading: How Did Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday Become a Federal Holiday?

23 Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes for MLK Day (and any other day)

On the Individual

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

“There is nothing more tragic than to find an individual bogged down in the length of life, devoid of breadth.”

“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”

On Progress

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.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

“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.”

“It is not enough to say we must not wage war. It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it.”

“A man who won’t die for something is not fit to live.”

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

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

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

On People & Love 

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

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

“He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.”

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

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

“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.”

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

“No one really knows why they are alive until they know what they’d die for.”

On Science, Theology, and Education

“Science investigates; religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge, which is power; religion gives man wisdom, which is control. Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values. The two are not rivals.”

“Every man lives in two realms: the internal and the external. The internal is that realm of spiritual ends expressed in art, literature, morals, and religion. The external is that complex of devices, techniques, mechanisms, and instrumentalities by means of which we live.”

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

“Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.”

See if you can’t go through the rest of Martin Luther King Jr.’s profile here.