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The Words of Martin Luther King, Jr

The Words of Martin Luther King, Jr. - Martin Luther King Jr.

This is a collection of insightful and inspirational quotations from Martin Luther King, Jr’s (MLK) writings, sermons and speeches. Like any such collection, this is not an end-in-itself work but more of an opener for a deeper and more contextual dive into MLK’s life and work.


It’s a short collection, less than 20K words; the quotations take up about 55% of the book, with the rest of the space given over to Coretta Scott King’s introduction, a chronology of MLK’s life, and the Proclamation of MLK Day text.


The quotes are organized by subject headings, such as Racism, Peace, Civil Rights and the Community of Man; all are thought-provoking and some of my favourites are:


Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others?


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


I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.


We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.


A man who won’t die for something is not fit to live.†


We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.


A doctrine of black supremacy is as evil as a doctrine of white supremacy.


The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason but with no morals.


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


There is so much frustration in the world because we have relied on gods rather than God.


St. Augustine was right—we were made for God and we will be restless until we find rest in Him.


The belief that God will do everything for man is as untenable as the belief that man can do everything for himself. It, too, is based on a lack of faith. We must learn that to expect God to do everything while we do nothing is not faith but superstition.

 († this quote brings to mind Socrates’ “an unexamined life is not worth living”)


The books mentioned in the chronology as authored by MLK are:

  • Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story (Sep 1958)
  • Strength to Love (Jun 1963)
  • Why We Can’t Wait (Jun 1964)
  • Where Do We Go from Here? (Jan 1967)