Memorable Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes


On Monday, Americans celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

President Ronald Reagan proclaimed the third Monday of each January as the official holiday in 1983 -- 15 years after an assassin took the civil-rights leader's life in 1968. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is the only citizen who was not an American president to be honored with a national holiday. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the holiday.

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King, organizer of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, preached non-violence as he served as an alternative to some more militant factions engaged in the mid-1960s battle for civil rights.

Along with preaching about equality he also expressed concern over poverty.

He is perhaps most remembered for his “I Have A Dream” speech, parts of which are likely to be repeated across the nation on Monday. King delivered the speech in 1963 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial as he spearheaded the March on Washington, which, according to, brought together more than 200,000 people.

Many of the lines of the 17-minute speech are often repeated as others speak of King's dream of equality. Among them, as gathered on MLK Online, are:

"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."

“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.”

"From every mountainside, let freedom ring. When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

King is also known for his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” a letter written he wrote on April 16, 1963, while confined in Birmingham, Ala., for his part in a non-violent protest against racial segregation.

The letter, as reprinted on MLK Online, was written in response to criticism from “fellow clergymen” who called his activities “unwise and untimely.”

He answered that he was in Birmingham “because injustice is here.”

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” he said.

Among other notable lines include:

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

“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”

Other famous lines attributed to King, as shared by, include:

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” (Strength to Love speech, 1963)

“We are not makers of history. We are made by history.” (Strength to Love speech);

King was shot at 6:01 p.m. April 4, 1968, while standing on the balcony outside his room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn. He had been supporting striking sanitation workers.

James Earl Ray was convicted of the crime, though there have been disputes and allegations of a conspiracy since then.

In his last speech, delivered the night before his assassination, King said he just wanted “to do God's will.”

“And I've looked over, and I've seen the promised land!” he said. “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. “

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