The 42 most inspiring Martin Luther King Jr. quotes

The U.S. recognizes Martin Luther King Jr. each year on the third Monday in January.

Observed on Monday, Jan. 16 in 2023, the federal holiday is set aside to pay tribute to the late civil rights leader's legacy. As is customary, banks, post offices and other government agencies will be closed in observance of the holiday.

An activist, author and Baptist minister, King's inspirational speeches and peaceful protests galvanized the American civil rights movement, bringing injustices and inequalities suffered by Black Americans to the forefront of the public eye.

In honor of his contributions, we've gathered some of the most stirring Martin Luther King Jr. quotes from historic speeches like "I Have A Dream," which King delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28, 1963, as well as his acceptance speech after being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.

Though his life was tragically cut short in April 1968, King's achievements and words of hope live on, teaching new generations that love, freedom and equality are never out of reach.

Whether you use his powerful words in an Instagram post or simply for your own reflection, read on and remember.

  • “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.” — Martin Luther King Jr., “I Have A Dream”

  • “We cannot walk alone. And as we walk we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.” — Martin Luther King Jr., “I Have A Dream”

  • “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” — Martin Luther King Jr., “I Have A Dream”

  • “We can say that our feet are tired, but our souls are rested.” — Martin Luther King Jr., “Our God is Marching On!”

  • "Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time." — Martin Luther King Jr., Nobel Peace Prize 1964 acceptance speech

  • “Let us therefore continue our triumphant march to the realization of the American dream.” — Martin Luther King Jr., “Our God is Marching On!”

  • “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” — Martin Luther King Jr., “Strength to Love”

  • “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” — Martin Luther King Jr., "Letter from Birmingham Jail"

  • “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” — Martin Luther King Jr., Address in Washington D.C.

  • “If we will but make the right choice, we will be able to speed up the day, all over America and all over the world, when justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” — Martin Luther King Jr., “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence”

  • “I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.” — Martin Luther King Jr., Nobel Peace Prize 1964 acceptance speech

  • “It is not enough to say ‘We must not wage war.’ It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it. We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but the positive affirmation of peace.” — Martin Luther King Jr., "The Quest for Peace and Justice"

  • “The battle is in our hands. And we can answer with creative nonviolence the call to higher ground to which the new directions of our struggle summons us.” — Martin Luther King Jr., “Our God is Marching On!”

  • “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.” — Martin Luther King Jr., “Strength to Love”

  • “Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.” — Martin Luther King Jr., “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence”

  • “We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience.” — Martin Luther King Jr., "Our God is Marching On!"

  • “True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.” — Martin Luther King Jr., “Stride Toward Freedom"

  • "Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood." — Martin Luther King Jr., Nobel Peace Prize 1964 acceptance speech

  • “We are determined here in Montgomery to work and fight until justice runs down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream." — Martin Luther King Jr., "The Montgomery Bus Boycott"

  • “Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality.” — Martin Luther King Jr., “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence”

  • “We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” — Martin Luther King Jr., “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution"

  • “We’ve got to stay together and maintain unity.” — Martin Luther King Jr., “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”

  • "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." — Martin Luther King Jr., Nobel Peace Prize 1964 acceptance speech

  • "I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality." — Martin Luther King Jr., Nobel Peace Prize 1964 acceptance speech

  • "We are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream." — Martin Luther King Jr., “I Have A Dream”

  • "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.'" — Martin Luther King Jr., “I Have A Dream”

  • “If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all the other shallow things will not matter.” — Martin Luther King Jr., "The Drum Major Instinct"

  • "Selma, Alabama, became a shining moment in the conscience of man. If the worst in American life lurked in its dark streets, the best of American instincts arose passionately from across the nation to overcome it." — Martin Luther King Jr., "Our God is Marching On!"

  • "We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak." — Martin Luther King Jr., "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence"

  • "Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter — but beautiful — struggle for a new world." — Martin Luther King Jr., “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence”

  • "It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world; it's nonviolence or nonexistence." — Martin Luther King Jr., "I've Been to the Mountaintop"

  • “Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater Nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.” — Martin Luther King Jr., Address at the Youth March for Integrated Schools

  • “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.” — Martin Luther King Jr., "A Christmas Sermon on Peace"

  • "We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education." — Martin Luther King Jr., "The Purpose of Education"

  • "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." —Martin Luther King Jr., 1957

  • "World peace through non-violent means is neither absurd or unattainable." — Martin Luther King Jr., "Dreams of Brighter Tomorrows"

  • "I am convinced that love is the most durable power in the world. It is not an expression of impractical idealism, but of practical realism." — Martin Luther King Jr., 1957

  • "There are two types of laws: there are just laws and there are unjust laws... What is the difference between the two?...An unjust law is a man-made code that is out of harmony with the moral law." — Martin Luther King Jr., 1963

  • "If we assume that mankind has a right to survive then we must find an alternative to war and destruction." — Martin Luther King Jr., "Pilgrimage to Nonviolence"

  • "They are talking about peace as a distant goal, as an end we seek, but one day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal we seek, but that it is a means by which we arrive at that goal. We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means." — Martin Luther King Jr., "A Christmas Sermon on Peace"

  • "I believe that even amid today's mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow." — Martin Luther King Jr., Nobel Peace Prize 1964 acceptance speech

  • "We are moving up a mighty highway toward the city of Freedom. There will be meandering points. There will be curves and difficult moments, and we will be tempted to retaliate with the same kind of force that the opposition will use. But I'm going to say to you, 'Wait a minute, Birmingham. Somebody's got to have some sense in Birmingham.'" — Martin Luther King Jr., 1963

This article was originally published on TODAY.com