13 Inspiring Quotes From Martin Luther King Jr.

MLK civil rights march
Martin Luther King and his wife Coretta Scott King lead a black voting rights march from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital in Montgomery on March 30,1965. William Lovelace/Getty Images

Martin Luther King Jr.'s name is synonymous with the civil rights movement that swept the nation in the '60s. He fought for equal rights for African-Americans at a time when segregation was prevalent. From his iconic "I Have a Dream" speech during the March on Washington in 1963 to his famous Alabama march from Selma to Montgomery, King was a beacon of hope during a dark time in American history. He advocated for non-violence, preaching love, acceptance and equality while pushing for change.

Tragically, his life came to an abrupt end on April 4, 1968. He was assassinated outside his hotel room in Memphis, Tennessee, the day after he had delivered what would become his final speech — his "I've Been to the Mountaintop" address, in which he discussed the Memphis sanitation workers' strike but also made some references to his own, untimely death.

King's words are as meaningful now as they were during his life, a reminder not just to remember the man who spoke them but to inspire all of us to be better people.

Here are some of his most memorable quotes:

Strength to Love

King's book, "Strength to Love," was published in 1963. It was a collection of King's sermons — including "I Have a Dream" and "I've Been to the Mountaintop."

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that."
"Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it."
"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."
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. addresses a crowd in Paris on March 29, 1966. AFP/Getty Images

Letter From Birmingham Jail

"Letter from Birmingham Jail" was written on April 16, 1963, after King's April 12 arrest during a nonviolent campaign of organized marches and sit-ins in Birmingham.

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

I Have a Dream Speech

King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech was delivered on August 28, 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. More than 250,000 people were in attendance.

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

I've Been to the Mountaintop Speech

King gave his "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 3, 1968, the day before he was assassinated. The speech was delivered in support of striking sanitation workers.

"We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. 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. 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. So I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."
Martin Luther King Jr protest march
Civil rights leaders hold hands as they lead a crowd of hundreds of thousands at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on Aug. 28, 1963, in Washington, D.C. Express Newspapers/Getty Images

The Trumpet of Conscience

The five lectures King delivered during the Massey Lecture Series of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 1967 were published after his assassination under the name "Conscience for Change." They were later renamed "Trumpet of Conscience."

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

Drum Major Instinct Sermon

The "Drum Major Instinct" was a sermon King delivered on February 4, 1968, in Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church. It was an adaptation of "Drum-Major Instincts" by J. Wallace Hamilton, a well-known white, liberal Methodist preacher.

"Everybody can be great ... because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart."

Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech

Martin Luther King Jr. received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for his leadership in the Civil Rights movement. He delivered his acceptance speech in Oslo, Norway, on December 10, 1964.

"I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final say in reality. Right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant."
MLK and wife
Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King in Oslo, Norway, where he received the Nobel Peace Prize in December 1964. AFP/Getty Images

Oberlin College 1965 Commencement

King delivered a commencement speech at Oberlin College on October 22, 1964. This appearance at the small, liberal arts college in Ohio was King's second public appearance after winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

"The time is always right to do what is right."

The Other America Speech

The speech now known as "The Other America" was delivered on April 14, 1967, at Stanford University. King also delivered similar versions of this speech, including at Grosse Point High School in Detroit on March 14, 1968 — less than a month before he was assassinated.

"A riot is the language of the unheard."

Quotes About Martin Luther King Jr.

It's fitting that Rev. Ralph D. Abernathy, who was with Dr. King when he was assassinated, summed up King's death and legacy best:

"The mortal heart of Martin Luther King was stopped by an assassin’s bullet. But no power on Earth can stop his work."