Special Report

32 Powerful Quotes from Martin Luther King Jr.

On Monday, Jan. 16 this year, we celebrate the birthday of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr – arguably the most important and influential, and certainly the most famous, American civil rights leader of all time. We observe MLK Day on the third Monday in January, though King was actually born on Tuesday, Jan. 15. (Read about the origins of every American federal holiday.)

Following in the footsteps of his father, Martin Luther King Sr., who was an early advocate of racial equality as pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the younger King became a prominent activist himself as early as the mid-1950s, preaching the gospel of nonviolent resistance to defeat Jim Crow laws and institutionalized racism.  

His concerns for peace and justice also led King to oppose the Vietnam War, and he became a tireless advocate for fair housing and labor practices and an enemy of economic injustice. It was while he was in Memphis to support a strike by Black sanitation workers, in fact, that he was cut down by an assassin’s bullet. (Here’s more about Dr. King and the 49 other most important civil rights leaders of the 20th century.)

A large part of King’s success was due to the fact that he was one of the great orators of the 20th century, legendary for his cadences, mastery of rhetoric, and rich, powerful, unmistakable voice. But it was what he said even more than how he said it that resonates so strongly today. He wasted no words, even though he often repeated phrases for effect, and his language was both elegant and emotionally accessible.

Click here to read 32 powerful quotes from Martin Luther King Jr.

To compile a list of some of the most famous things Rev. Martin Luther King said, including quotes on such subjects as justice, war, love, and peace, 24/7 Tempo referred to transcripts of MLK’s speeches from various sources as well as articles in the Washington Post and other publications about King’s life. The exact date of the quote is given where possible.

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