Martin Luther King's Quotes on Humanism an Inspiration and Source of Support for Rights of Indigenous Peoples
On August 28, 1963 when more than 250,000 people gathered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. for a massive civil rights march, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was introduced as “the moral leader of our nation.” The civil rights leader, scholar and Baptist minister took the stand and began his famous “I have a dream speech” with the following words: “I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.”
King talked about Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which he said was a beacon of hope for “millions of Negro slaves seared in the flames of withering injustice.” He could easily have included “millions of Indigenous Peoples” in that statement since the United States was founded on the genocide and labor of Indigenous Peoples and African slaves. A year later, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson. By the time King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, he had expanded his vision of freedom and civil rights for African Americans into a universal message of freedom and human rights for all. Along the way of becoming an American icon of non-violent resistance and a Nobel Peace Prize winner, King left a legacy of soaring oratory on peace, justice, and the dignity of being human. Here are some of his most inspiring words from his writings, speeches and sermons:
“Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.”
“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.”
“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood.”
“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.”
“I want to be the white man's brother, not his brother-in-law.”
“If physical death is the price that I must pay to free my white brothers and sisters from a permanent death of the spirit, then nothing can be more redemptive.”
“It is incontestable and deplorable that Negroes have committed crimes; but they are derivative crimes. They are born of the greater crimes of the white society.”
“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
“The good neighbor looks beyond the external accidents and discerns those inner qualities that make all men human and, therefore, brothers.”
“Now, I say to you today my friends, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American 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.”
“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don't know each other; they don't know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”
“We must rapidly begin the shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘person-oriented’ society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”
“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”
“We have flown the air like birds and swum the sea like fishes, but have yet to learn the simple act of walking the earth like brothers.”
“It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tired into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one destiny, affects all indirectly.”
“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.”
“We are not makers of history. We are made by history.”
“In some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.”
“When we look at modern man, we have to face the fact...that modern man suffers from a kind of poverty of the spirit, which stands in glaring contrast to his scientific and technological abundance; We've learned to fly the air like birds, we've learned to swim the seas like fish, and yet we haven't learned to walk the Earth as brothers and sisters...”
“I look forward confidently to the day when all who work for a living will be one with no thought to their separateness as Negroes, Jews, Italians or any other distinctions. This will be the day when we bring into full realization the American dream—a dream yet unfulfilled.”
"Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away, and that in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty."
Other inspiring quotes from Martin Luther King Jr.:
"The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."
"I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsom and jetsom in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events, which surround him. 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 refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality."
"At the center of non-violence stands the principle of love."
"The world in which we live is geographically one. The challenge that we face today is to make it one in terms of brotherhood."
"The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education, which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals."
"They tell me that one-tenth of one percent of the population controls more than 40 percent of the wealth. Oh America, how often have you taken necessities from the masses to give luxuries to the classes."
"On some positions, Cowardice asks the question, 'Is it safe?' Expediency asks the question, 'Is it politic?' And Vanity comes along and asks the question, 'Is it popular?' But Conscience asks the question 'Is it right?' And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right. I believe today that there is a need for all people of good will to come together with a massive act of conscience and say in the words of the old Negro spiritual, 'We ain't goin' study war no more.' This is the challenge facing modern man."
"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. ... Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."
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