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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) was a principal leader of the non-violent Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. He not only began the Civil Rights Movement with the Montgomery Bus Boycott, he became an icon for the entire movement. Since King was, in part, famous for his oratory abilities, one can both be inspired and learn much by reading through these quotes by Martin Luther King, Jr.
"Letter From Birmingham Jail," 16 April 1963
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
"We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people."
"Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed."
"I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and willingly accepts the penalty by staying in jail in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is, in reality, expressing the very highest respect for the law."
"We who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive."
"Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will."
"We were here before the mighty words of the Declaration of Independence were etched across the pages of history. Our forebears labored without wages. They made cotton 'king'. And yet out of a bottomless vitality, they continued to thrive and develop. If the cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail… Because the goal of America is freedom, abused and scorned tho' we may be, our destiny is tied up with America's destiny."
"I Have a Dream" Speech, August 28, 1963
"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 the table of brotherhood."
"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."
"When we let freedom 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 spiritual, 'Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.'"
"Strength to Love" (1963)
"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. The true neighbor will risk his position, his prestige and even his life for the welfare of others."
"Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity."
"The means by which we live have outdistanced the ends for which we live. Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men."
"A nation or civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men purchases its own spiritual death on an installment plan."
"I've Been to the Mountaintop" Speech, April 3, 1968 (the day before his assassination)
"Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And he's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over, and I've seen the promised land… So I'm happy tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man."
Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech, December 10, 1964
"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."
"Where Do We Go From Here?" Speech, August 16, 1967
"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."
Other Speeches and Quotations
"We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools." - Speech in St. Louis, Missouri, March 22, 1964.
"If a man hasn't discovered something he will die for, he isn't fit to live." - Speech in Detroit, Michigan on June 23, 1963.
"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." - Quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Nov. 13, 1962.