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10 Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes to Make You Take Action

Stand up!

Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” is likely one of the most inspiring things you can read. As the title suggests, King wrote it in jail, and it is essentially a treatise in defense of nonviolent direct action. More broadly, it’s about doing something instead of nothing. It’s a call to action for anybody who sees anything wrong happening. It was written to rally clergymen to King’s cause, to convince them of the righteousness of breaking unjust laws.

 

It’s easy enough to find inspiring Martin Luther King Jr. quotes, so I chose specifically from his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Hopefully, after you’ve read some of these excerpts, you’ll be motivated to read the letter in its entirety here.

 

1. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

 

2. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.

 

3. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily.

 

4. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.

 

5. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.

 

6. We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was "illegal."

 

7. Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

 

8. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will.

 

9. So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?

 

10. Never before have I written so long a letter. I'm afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?

 

MLK

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