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Prayer Pilgrimage

Back view of American civil rights leader and Baptist minister Martin Luther King, Jr., dressed in black robes and holding out his hands towards the thousands of people who have gathered to hear him speak near the Reflecting Pool in Washington, D.C. during the Prayer Pilgrimage on May 17, 1957. | Source: Hulton Archive / Getty

UPDATED: 9:30 a.m. ET, Jan. 16, 2023

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s quotes are powerful, timeless, and impactful. They are a testament to the wisdom and eloquence of one of the greatest leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. His words continue to inspire and guide people of all ages and backgrounds, and they hold a special significance in the context of the ongoing fight for civil rights and social justice. His speeches and writings, particularly his “I Have a Dream” speech, are considered iconic and are studied and quoted extensively. His messages of equality, nonviolence, and love resonate with people from all walks of life and continue to inspire new generations to work toward creating a more just and equitable society. Dr. King’s quotes remind us of the power of words and the importance of using them to bring about change.

Many of Dr. King’s most riveting quotes he spoke before his untimely assassination on April 4, 1968, live on to this day.

MORE: When Mike Pence Had The Unchristian Nerve To Compare Trump To Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. King organized marches, including the pivotal 54-mile voting rights march in Alabama from Selma to Montgomery in 1965. He led the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), which spearheaded a student sit-in movement in 1960, and the Freedom Rides in 1961. He crafted the famous “Letter From A Birmingham Jail” in 1963. His words, enhanced by courage, conviction, and Black oratory traditions, were like colorful strokes painting a better world for people of color.

MLK Poses With Others

American Civil Rights and religious leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. smiles as he hands papers to a group of four men, one of them is musician and Civil Rights activist Harry Belafonte (second right), on May 11, 1957. | Source: Afro Newspaper/Gado / Getty

When King was killed at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, his death sent shock waves throughout the nation. Opponents of King thought his life’s work would be cut short, but they had underestimated his power. They couldn’t stop King’s memory and words from living on and inspiring others.

King’s quotes are incredibly important as we are in these insane political times.

Clarence B. Jones, the former personal counsel, advisor, speechwriter, and friend of King, talked about what he thought the civil rights leader would react during times like these: “He would say that in the common interest of humanity and decency, that we must put aside your partisan, political differences and focus on those programs which will be of the greatest benefit to the people who need benefits.”

Martin Luther King Jr. Outlines Boycott Plans

Rev. Martin Luther King, director of segregated bus boycott, brimming with enthusiasm as he outlines boycott strategies to his advisors and organizers, including (seated L-R) Rev. Ralph Abernathy and Rosa Parks, who was the catalyst for the protest of bus riders. | Source: Don Cravens / Getty

Dr. King saw the civil rights movement and the union movement as natural allies, the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest and strongest union, has reminded people. That alliance was on full display at the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. King’s pro-union stance was also clear and present during his historic “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, which was one day before he was assassinated. As King laid out during the address, “God’s children here suffering (That’s right), sometimes going hungry, going through dark and dreary nights wondering how this thing is going to come out. That’s the issue. (That’s right) And we’ve got to say to the nation, we know how it’s coming out. For when people get caught up with that which is right and they are willing to sacrifice for it, there is no stopping point short of victory.”

See more of King’s inspiring words below:

All The King’s Words: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Most Riveting Quotes  was originally published on

1. On Progress

On Progress Source:false

“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.”

2. On Faith

On Faith Source:false

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

3. On Living A Giving Life

On Living A Giving Life Source:false

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”

4. On Injustice

On Injustice Source:false

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

5. On Being Alive

On Being Alive Source:false

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

6. On Living

On Living Source:false

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

7. On Being A Man

On Being A Man Source:false

“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.”

8. On Playing Your Position

On Playing Your Position Source:false

“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.”

9. On Salvation

On Salvation Source:false

“Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.”

10. On The Laws He Sought To Change

On The Laws He Sought To Change Source:false

“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.”

11. On Truth And Unconditional Love

On Truth And Unconditional Love Source:false

“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.”

12. On Riots

On Riots Source:false

“A riot is the language of the unheard.”

13. On Forgiveness

On Forgiveness Source:false

“Forgiveness is not an occasional act. It is a permanent attitude.”

14. On Oneness

On Oneness Source:false

“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”

15. On Ignorance

On Ignorance Source:false

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

16. On Doing The Right Thing

On Doing The Right Thing Source:false

“The time is always right to do the right thing.”

17. On Love

On Love Source:false

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

18. On Love

On Love Source:false

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

19. On Injustice

On Injustice Source:false

“We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

20. On His Dream, That’s Now A Reality…Sort Of…

On His Dream, That’s Now A Reality…Sort Of… Source:false

“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.”