These 50 powerful quotes sum up just how incredible MLK was.

In 1968, our nation lost one of the most incredible citizens in United States history.  

Photo by Central Press Getty Images.

Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed on April 4, 1968, outside a Tennessee motel room. He was just 39 years old.


The pastor, activist, and humanitarian led an incredibly profound and impactful life. Largely responsible for helping to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964, King organized, marched, and became accustomed to being inconvenienced and uncomfortable for the greater good.  

King's mission toward peace, black freedom, and equality for all didn't stop when he died.

Though his passing was a painful point in American history, his words continue to live on. A radical and peacemaker, a preacher and a father, an advocate for the poor and a criticizer of the indifferent, King's life and teachings were just as complex as he was.      

To remember his legacy, we have 50 of his quotes that offer insight into his beliefs about race, class, and humanity itself.  

1. "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."  

2. "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."

3. "I think that we've got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard. And, what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the economic plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years."    

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4. "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."  

5. "He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love."

6. "A lie cannot live."

7. "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."  

8. "A riot is the language of the unheard."

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

10. "Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness."

11. "Nonviolence is 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."

12. "Why is equality so assiduously avoided? Why does white America delude itself, and how does it rationalize the evil it retains?"

13.  "We have deluded ourselves into believing the myth that capitalism grew and prospered out of the Protestant ethic of hard work and sacrifices. The fact is that capitalism was built on the exploitation and suffering of black slaves and continues to thrive on the exploitation of the poor — both black and white, both here and abroad."  

Photo by John Goodwin/Getty Images.

14. "If you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl, but by all means, keep moving."

15. "The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to live intensively and to think critically. ... Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education."  

16. "Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. Indeed, it is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it."

17. "First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to 'order' than to justice."

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18. "We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope."

19. "The Negro has no room to make any substantial compromises because his store of advantages is too small. He must press unrelentingly for quality, integrated education or his whole drive for freedom will be undermined by the absence of a most vital and indispensable element — learning."

Photo by AFP/Getty Images.

20. "We must all learn to live together as brothers, or we will all perish together as fools."

21. "If a man hasn’t discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live."

22. "History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people."

Photo by Keystone/Getty Images.

23. "The more there are riots, the more repressive action will take place, and the more we face the danger of a right-wing takeover and eventually a fascist society."

24. "No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream."

25. "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."

26. "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."

27. "Never succumb to the temptation of becoming bitter."  

Photo by William Lovelace/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

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

29. "Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will."  

30. "Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle."

31. "Instead of making history, we are made by history."

Photo by Reg Lancaster/Express/Getty Images.

32. "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."    

33. "I have decided to stick with love. ... Hate is too great a burden to bear."

34. "The problems of racial injustice and economic injustice cannot be solved without a radical redistribution of political and economic power."

35. "I came to the conclusion that there is an existential moment in your life when you must decide to speak for yourself; nobody else can speak for you."

36. "The ultimate tragedy ... was not the brutality of the bad people, but the silence of the good people."

37. "He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it."

38. "We cannot walk alone."  

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39. "Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men."

40. "There comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because it is right."

41. "When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered."

42. "Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a permanent attitude."

43. "Let no man pull you so low as to hate him."

Photo by Three Lions/Getty Images.

44. "No one really knows why they are alive until they know what they'd die for."

45. "I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality. … I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality."  

46. "It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence."  

47. "The past is prophetic in that it asserts loudly that wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows."

Photo by Reg Lancaster/Express/Getty Images.

48. "Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'"

49. "We may have all come on different ships, but we're in the same boat now."

50. "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." *  

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