Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes

Born in 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia, to a Christian family, Martin Luther King, Jr., was the mastermind behind the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s that allowed for the adoption of several laws banning discrimination of black people (Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act).

The first time he came across racism in his own life was at the tender age of six when the parents of his white friend prohibited the boys from interacting due to a different skin colour and the two friends also had to attend different schools.

He witnessed his father, Reverend Michael King, Sr., fight segregation on many occasions, including a civil rights march of several hundred African Americans in Atlanta he led in 1936 to fight voting discrimination in front of city hall. At school, he developed an excellent public-speaking ability and joined the debate team which would come in handy later in life. All of that proved influential in his fight against racial segregation and the so-called “Jim Craw laws” enforcing it.

He first became active in the civil rights movement in 1955 after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat and acted as the co-organiser of the so-called Montgomery Bus Boycott that lasted for an entire year and also included an arrest of King. However, the ruling of Browder v. Gayle ultimately revoked racial segregation on all buses in Montgomery, transforming King into a nationally-known figure and the most prominent speaker of the civil rights movement.

In 1957, King and some other civil rights activists founded the so-called Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) whose main aim was to organise non-violent protest against racial segregation and discrimination by black churches as inspired by Mahatma Gandhi. Later on, he was involved in the founding of the Gandhi Society for Human Rights which was used for fundraising purposes.

King rightly believed that non-violent protest was the right manner to raise awareness among the American population on the struggles experienced by the African-American population in the South through the power of media reports which ultimately proved successful. He led several marches to exercise pressure in Washington, D.C., to introduce the rights of blacks to vote and other civil rights denied to the black population in the South.

He was involved in several civil rights campaigns, such as the Albany Movement in 1961 and the Birmingham Campaign in 1963. At the civil rights march in Washington, D.C., in 1963, he gave his famous “I have a dream” speech. His work is credited to the adoption of various laws ending racial segregation and providing black with the right to vote by President John F. Kennedy.

  • He was behind important events in American history such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1963 following Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her bus seat to a white man;
  • He led a march to Washington, D.C., demanding equal rights in 1963;
  • He was good friends with the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thích Nhất Hạnh that brought about his condemnation of the Vietnamese War;
  • He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964;
  • He built his non-violent movement on the same premises as Mahatma Gandhi in India who he saw as a great example;
  • His ideas were used also in the civil rights movements in South Africa, Northern Ireland (John Hume cites his legacy as essential for the signing of the Good Friday Agreement) and other similar movements in the US?

“I have a dream”

“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.”

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

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

“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.”

“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor;
it must be demanded by the oppressed.”

“The time is always right
to do what is right.”

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

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

“Free at last, Free at last,
Thank God almighty we are free at last.”

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

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

“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.”

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

“Be a bush if you can’t be a tree.
If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail.
If you can’t be a sun, be a star.
For it isn’t by size that you win or fail.
Be the best of whatever you are.”

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

Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes

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