150 Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes on Peace and Equality

These Martin Luther King Jr. quotes are a must-have if you’re looking for a change in your life or want to learn more about his legacy. 

In our daily lives, we are constantly called upon to fight for our rights. It is a fact that inequity has long been an issue especially for people of color, and racism and inequality are slowly eating up our societies and communities. The time is now to act toward the abolishment of such discrimination.

One who truly fought for people’s rights is Martin Luther King Jr., a well-known civil rights leader and activist. He fought for African Americans’ equal citizenship rights through nonviolent protest. If you’re curious to know more, check out this list of his best quotes.

Start reading here. 

And don’t miss out these Malcolm X quotes and Nelson Mandela quotes.

Best Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes

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

2. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

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

4. “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.”

5. “Only in the darkness can you see the stars.”

6. “You can kill the dreamer, but you can’t kill the dream.”

7. “We are not makers of history. We are made by history.”

8. “I have a dream that one day right there in Alabama little Black boys and little Black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”

9. “Nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek.”

10. “In some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.”

11. “One day we will learn that the heart can never be totally right when the head is totally wrong.”

12. “We must walk on in the days ahead with an audacious faith in the future.”

13. “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.”

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

15. “We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.”

Famous Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes

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

17. “It does not matter how long you live, but how well you do it.”

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

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

20. “We have flown the air like birds and swum the sea like fishes, but have yet to learn the simple act of walking the earth like brothers.”

21. “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.”

22. “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

23. “I want to be the white man’s brother, not his brother-in-law.”

24. “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.”

25. “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.”

26. “Even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.”

27. “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”

28. “The beauty of genuine brotherhood and peace is more precious than diamonds or silver or gold.”

29. “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed—we hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

Also read: Famous Quotes

Inspirational Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes

30. “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.”

31. “Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.”

32. “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.”

33. “If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.”

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

35. “I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”

Also read: Inspirational Quotes, Encouraging Quotes

Powerful Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes to Encourage You to Make a Difference in the World

36. “We must learn that passively to accept an unjust system is to cooperate with that system, and thereby to become a participant in its evil.”

37. “The difference between a dreamer and a visionary is that a dreamer has his eyes closed and a visionary has his eyes open.”

38. “You will change your mind; you will change your looks; you will change your smile, laugh, and ways but no matter what you change, you will always be you.”

39. “Everything that we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see.”

40. “The art of acceptance is the art of making someone who has just done you a small favor wish that he might have done you a greater one.”

41. “When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative.”

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

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

Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes to Instill Courage in You

44. “We must substitute courage for caution.”

45. “Courage is the power of the mind to overcome fear.”

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

47. “Courage is an inner resolution to go forward despite obstacles.”

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

49. “We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.”

50. “Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.”

51. “There is nothing more majestic than the determined courage of individuals willing to suffer and sacrifice for their freedom and dignity.”

52. “Courageous men never lose the zest for living even though their life situation is zestless; cowardly men, overwhelmed by the uncertainties of life, lose the will to live.”

Also read: Courage Quotes

Deep Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes About Love and Hatred

53. “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”

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

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

56. “Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.”

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

58. “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.”

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

60. “I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind’s problems.”

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

62. “Hate is just as injurious to the hater as it is to the hated. Like unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Many of our inner conflicts are rooted in hate.”

63. “Love is the greatest force in the universe. It is the heartbeat of the moral cosmos. He who loves is a participant in the being of God.”

64. “You know, a lot of people don’t love themselves. And they go through life with deep and haunting emotional conflicts. So the length of life means that you must love yourself. And you know what loving yourself also means? It means that you’ve got to accept yourself.”

65. “If one loves an individual merely on account of his friendliness, he loves him for the sake of the benefits to be gained from the friendship, rather than for the friend’s own sake. Consequently, the best way to assure oneself that love is disinterested is to have a love for the enemy-neighbor from whom you can expect no good in return, but only hostility and persecution.”

66. “Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies—or else? The chain reaction of evil—hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars—must be broken, or else we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.”

67. “We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will. And we shall continue to love you.”

Also read: Meaningful Quotes

Motivational Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes on Always Moving Forward

68. “Mother dear, one day I’m going to turn this world upside down.”

69. “If physical death is the price that I must pay to free my white brothers and sisters from a permanent death of the spirit, then nothing can be more redemptive.”

70. “Those who are not looking for happiness are the most likely to find it because those who are searching forget that the surest way to be happy is to seek happiness for others.”

71. “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.”

72. “We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.”

73. “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there ‘is’ such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”

74. “As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation—either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.”

75. “We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now because I’ve been to the mountaintop. 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.”

Also read: Moving On Quotes

Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes on Justice and Human Rights

76. “A right delayed is a right denied.”

77. “The moral arc of the universe bends at the elbow of justice.”

78. “A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right. A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice. A man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true.”

79. “Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”

80. “Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress.”

81. “It is incontestable and deplorable that Negroes have committed crimes, but they are derivative crimes. They are born of the greater crimes of the white society.”

82. “All we say to America is, ‘Be true to what you said on paper.’ If I lived in China or even Russia, or any totalitarian country, maybe I could understand the denial of certain basic first amendment privileges because they hadn’t committed themselves to that over there. But somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of the press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right.”

83. “We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.”

84. “The contemporary tendency in our society is to base our distribution on scarcity, which has vanished, and to compress our abundance into the overfed mouths of the middle and upper classes until they gag with superfluity. If democracy is to have the breadth of meaning, it is necessary to adjust this inequity. It is not only moral, but it is also intelligent. We are wasting and degrading human life by clinging to archaic thinking.”

Interesting Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes on Hope

85. “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”

86. “The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace, and brotherhood.”

87. “If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all. And so today I still have a dream.”

Eye-Opening Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes About Service

88. “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 full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

89. “The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But—the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’”

90. “We are prone to judge success by the index of our salaries or the size of our automobiles rather than by the quality of our service and relationship to mankind.”

91. “Every now and then I ask myself, ‘What is it that I would want said?’ I’d like somebody to mention that day, that ‘Martin Luther King Jr., tried to give his life serving others.’ I’d like for somebody to say that day, that ‘Martin Luther King Jr., tried to love somebody.’”

Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes to Help You Value Your Work

92. “Whatever your life’s work is, do it well. A man should do his job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better.”

93. “No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”

94. “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes on Obtaining Freedom

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

96. “Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.”

97. “Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself.”

98. “We must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent.”

Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes About His Fight for Equality

99. “A dream of equality of opportunity, of privilege and property, widely distributed; a dream of a land where men will not take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few.”

100. “The sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality.”

101. “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”

Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes on Putting an End to Racism

102. “Three hundred years of humiliation, abuse, and deprivation cannot be expected to find a voice in a whisper.”

103. “Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God’s children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.”

104. “It’s all right to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps, but it is cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.”

105. “Whites, it must frankly be said, are not putting in a similar mass effort to reeducate themselves out of their racial ignorance. It is an aspect of their sense of superiority that the white people of America believe they have so little to learn.”

106. “The problem of racism, the problem of economic exploitation, and the problem of war are all tied together. These are the triple evils that are interrelated.”

107. “Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.”

Short Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes

108. “A lie cannot live.”

109. “Hate destroys the hater.”

110. “Seeing is not always believing.”

111. “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.”

112. “There is no gain without struggle.”

113. “A riot is the language of the unheard.”

114. “No person has the right to rain on your dreams.”

Also read: Short Quotes

Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes to Help You Live the Life You Deserve

115. “The quality, not the longevity, of one’s life is what is important.”

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

117. “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.”

118. “There comes a time when people get tired of being pushed out of the glittering sunlight of life’s July and left standing amid the piercing chill of an alpine November.”

119. “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.”

120. “Property is intended to serve life, and no matter how much we surround it with rights and respect, it has no personal being. It is part of the earth man walks on. It is not man.”

Wise Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes on How to Use Your Power to Be a Good Leader

121. “Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.”

122. “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.”

123. “I am not interested in power for power’s sake, but I’m interested in power that is moral, that is right and that is good.”

124. “The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. The nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.”

125. “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”

Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes on the Value of Education and Critical Thinking

126. “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.”

127. “Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.”

128. “If we are not careful, our colleges will produce a group of close-minded, unscientific, illogical propagandists, consumed with immoral acts. Be careful, ‘brethren!’ Be careful, teachers!”

Thought-Provoking Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes on Fear

129. “The Negro needs the white man to free him from his fears. The white man needs the Negro to free him from his guilt.”

130. “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!”

131. “The soft-minded man always fears change. He feels security in the status quo, and he has an almost morbid fear of the new. For him, the greatest pain is the pain of a new idea.”

132. “People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”

Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes on War and Peace

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

134. “The past is prophetic in that it asserts loudly that wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows.”

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

136. “We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war but the positive affirmation of peace.”

137. “Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.”

138. “Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.”

139. “The principle of self-defense, even involving weapons and bloodshed, has never been condemned, even by Gandhi.”

140. “Nonviolence is an absolute commitment to the way of love. Love is not emotional bash; it is not empty sentimentalism. It is the active outpouring of one’s whole being into the being of another.”

141. “Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals.”

142. “If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.”

143. “Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love—violence ends up defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.”

144. “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.”

145. “One of the greatest casualties of the war in Vietnam is the great society—shot down on the battlefield of Vietnam.”

146. “Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. I am not unmindful of the fact that violence often brings about momentary results. Nations have frequently won their independence in battle. But in spite of temporary victories, violence never brings permanent peace.”

More Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes on His Advocacy

147. “If we are to go forward, we must go back and rediscover those precious values—that all reality hinges on moral foundations and that all reality has spiritual control.”

148. “If I wish to compose or write or pray or preach well, I must be angry. Then all the blood in my veins is stirred, and my understanding is sharpened.”

149. “A nation or civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men purchases its own spiritual death on the installment plan.”

150. “Cowardice asks the question, is it safe? Expediency asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But conscience asks the question, is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because it is right.”

Do You Think We Can Completely Eradicate Inequity?

Martin Luther King Jr. earned his doctorate in theology from Boston University. He also served as pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.

In 1963, his I Have a Dream speech at the Lincoln Memorial inspired thousands of people. This resulted in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. These things only show how monumental his influence is to the people. 

Martin Luther King Jr. stood for what he believed in, no matter how hard it was to continue on. He dedicated his life to his advocacy and sparked change through nonviolent protest. Like him, let’s all stand our ground and stay firm whenever different challenges rock our life.

Which of these Martin Luther King Jr. quotes sparked your patriotism? Do you have any more quotes you’d like to add? Please, leave them in the comments section below.

Read Next:

Karen Danao

Hi, I’m Karen, a content curator and writer for Quote Ambition; I’m also a marketing and advertising professional. Beyond the keyboard and the screen, I’m someone who’s out to enjoy every bit that life has to offer!

Poetry, philosophy, history, and movies are all topics I love writing about! However, my true passion is in traveling, photography, and finding common ground to which everyone from different cultures can relate.

With the many places I’ve been to, I found that love, inspiration, and happiness are some things that bring people together. No matter how different we are on the outside, I’m a true believer that our emotions don’t lie; if you dig deep into our psyche, we’re all the same inside.

This belief was further amplified when I joined Quote Ambition. Through the quotes I’ve read, collected, organized, and written about, I found that humans are resilient, creative, and compassionate.

We take from each others’ hearts and courage, and it’s through our individual experiences that we learn how to rise above our challenges and pain. In so many ways, Quote Ambition is a platform that allows people from all over the world to gain the inspiration they need anytime, anywhere!

You can find me on MuckRack and LinkedIn.