Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Atlanta, Georgia on January 15th, 1929. He was a pivotal advocate for African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.
King experienced racism from an early age, and those events stayed with and eventually brought him to a life of activism. After graduating college with a doctorate degree in theology, King became a pastor in Alabama. He began a series of peaceful protests in the south that eventually changed many laws dealing with the equality of African Americans. King gave hundreds of moving speeches across the country, and in 1964 was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
On April 4th, 1968, King was shot and killed while in Memphis, Tennessee. Although his life ended that day, the work that he had accomplished changed the nation. King will be remembered not only for his commitment to the cause of equality for African Americans but also for his profound speeches that moved so many.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s words were spoken with hope that the future for African Americans would be brighter and that they would finally be given the equality they deserved.
The following 123 Martin Luther King Jr. quotes on life, love, progress, and freedom helped shape the progressive world we live in today.
Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes on Life
“We are not makers of history. We are made by history.”
“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness. ”
“Science investigates; religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge, which is power; religion gives man wisdom, which is control. Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values. The two are not rivals.”
“We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.”
“There is nothing more tragic than to find an individual bogged down in the length of life, devoid of breadth.”
“Property is intended to serve life, and no matter how much we surround it with rights and respect, it has no personal being. It is part of the earth man walks on. It is not man.”
“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”
“All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”
“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”
“Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.”
“Every man lives in two realms: the internal and the external. The internal is that realm of spiritual ends expressed in art, literature, morals, and religion. The external is that complex of devices, techniques, mechanisms, and instrumentalities by means of which we live.”
“Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.”
“There comes a time when people get tired of being pushed out of the glittering sunlight of life’s July and left standing amid the piercing chill of an alpine November.”
“A lie cannot live.”
“The past is prophetic in that it asserts loudly that wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows”
“The limitation of riots, moral questions aside, is that they cannot win and their participants know it. Hence, rioting is not revolutionary but reactionary because it invites defeat. It involves an emotional catharsis, but it must be followed by a sense of futility.”
Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes on Love
“He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.”
“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”
“There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.”
“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.”
“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.”
“Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.”
“It is not enough to say we must not wage war. It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it.”
Inspirational Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes
“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
“Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.”
“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right.”
“Everybody can be great … because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
“A man who won’t die for something is not fit to live.”
“We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.”
“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
“Those who are not looking for happiness are the most likely to find it, because those who are searching forget that the surest way to be happy is to seek happiness for others.”
“Never succumb to the temptation of bitterness.”
“You will change your mind; You will change your looks; You will change your smile,laugh, and ways but no matter what you change, you will always be you.”
“Whatever your life’s work is, do it well. A man should do his job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better. ”
“Everything that we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see.”
“We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war but the positive affirmation of peace.”
“The art of acceptance is the art of making someone who has just done you a small favor wish that he might have done you a greater one.”
“A riot is the language of the unheard.”
Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes on Leadership
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
“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.”
“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
“Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.”
“Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a constant attitude.”
“Ten thousand fools proclaim themselves into obscurity, while one wise man forgets himself into immortality.”
“When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative. ”
“That old law about ‘an eye for an eye’ leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing.”
“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.”
“We are prone to judge success by the index of our salaries or the size of our automobiles rather than by the quality of our service and relationship to mankind.”
“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”
“Not everybody can be famous but everybody can be great because greatness is determined by service… You only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love.”
“Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.”
“The soft-minded man always fears change. He feels security in the status quo, and he has an almost morbid fear of the new. For him, the greatest pain is the pain of a new idea.”
“We cannot walk alone.”
“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”
“I am not interested in power for power’s sake, but I’m interested in power that is moral, that is right and that is good.”
Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes on Progress
“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”
“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.”
“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.”
“We will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
“Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress.”
“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
“Capitalism does not permit an even flow of economic resources. With this system, a small privileged few are rich beyond conscience, and almost all others are doomed to be poor at some level. That’s the way the system works. And since we know that the system will not change the rules, we are going to have to change the system.”
“Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.”
“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.”
“I have a dream that one day little black boys and girls will be holding hands with little white boys and girls.”
“What is wrong in the world today is that the nations of the world are engaged in a bitter, colossal contest for supremacy.”
“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.”
“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”
“A nation or civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men purchases its own spiritual death on the installment plan.”
“The more there are riots, the more repressive action will take place, and the more we face the danger of a right-wing takeover and eventually a fascist society.”
Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes on Justice
“No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
“The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood.”
“The moral arc of the universe bends at the elbow of justice.”
“It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.”
“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”
“Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.”
“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.”
“The principle of self defense, even involving weapons and bloodshed, has never been condemned, even by Gandhi.”
Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes on Nonviolence
“We who in engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive.”
“Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.”
“At the center of non-violence stands the principle of love.”
“Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. I am not unmindful of the fact that violence often brings about momentary results. Nations have frequently won their independence in battle. But in spite of temporary victories, violence never brings permanent peace.”
“World peace through nonviolent means is neither absurd nor unattainable. All other methods have failed. Thus we must begin anew. Nonviolence is a good starting point. Those of us who believe in this method can be voices of reason, sanity, and understanding amid the voices of violence, hatred, and emotion. We can very well set a mood of peace out of which a system of peace can be built.”
“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. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.”
“Mankind must put and end to war or war will put an end to mankind.”
Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes on Freedom
“If the cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. Because the goal of America is freedom, abused and scorned tho’ we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny.”
“In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, as ‘right-to-work.’ It provides no ‘rights’ and no ‘works.’ Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining… We demand this fraud be stopped.”
“In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.”
“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.”
“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. ”
“I want to be the white man’s brother, not his brother-in-law.”
“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!’ ”
Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes on Faith
“If any earthly institution or custom conflicts with God’s will, it is your Christian duty to oppose it. You must never allow the transitory, evanescent demands of man-made institutions to take precedence over the eternal demands of the Almighty God.”
“Courage is an inner resolution to go forward despite obstacles; Cowardice is submissive surrender to circumstances. Courage breeds creativity; Cowardice represses fear and is mastered by it. Cowardice asks the question, is it safe? Expediency asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But conscience ask the question, is it right? And there comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because it is right.”
“By opening our lives to God in Christ, we become new creatures. This experience, which Jesus spoke of as the new birth, is essential if we are to be transformed nonconformists … Only through an inner spiritual transformation do we gain the strength to fight vigorously the evils of the world in a humble and loving spirit.”
“Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, ‘Love your enemies.’ It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. Just keep being friendly to that person. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies.”
“The God whom we worship is not a weak and incompetent God. He is able to beat back gigantic waves of opposition and to bring low prodigious mountains of evil. The ringing testimony of the Christian faith is that God is able.”
“I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”
“The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But… the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’
“Seeing is not always believing.”
Quotes About Martin Luther King Jr.
“The evidence of Martin Luther King Jnr’s “I have a dream” declaration was a passionate confirmation of how a dream meant for liberation, success and fulfilled life can become true.” ―Israelmore Ayivor, Shaping the Dream
“We can move in that direction as a country, in greater polarization – black people amongst blacks, and white amongst whites, filled with hatred toward one another. Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King Jr. did, to understand and to comprehend, and replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand, compassion and love…. What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.” ―Robert F. Kennedy
“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream was a manifestation of hope that humanity might one day get out of its own way by finding the courage to realize that love and nonviolence are not indicators of weakness but gifts of significant strength.” ―Aberjhani, Illuminated Corners: Collected Essays and Articles Volume I
“We can’t answer King’s assassination with violence. That would be the worst tribute we could pay him.” ―Sammy Davis Jr.
10 Fun Facts About Martin Luther King Jr.
- Martin Luther King Jr. skipped two grades in high school, 9th and 11th, and entered college (Moorehouse College) at the age of 15 in 1944. By 19, he received a bachelor’s degree in sociology.
- His honeymoon was spent at a funeral parlor. This was not because someone died, simply because a friend owned the parlor and offered to let him use it for his honeymoon.
- His house was once bombed. This was during the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which lasted 385 days.
- Martin Luther King Jr.’s autopsy revealed that stress had taken a major toll on his body. Despite being only 39 when he passed away, one of his doctors noted that he had “the heart of a 60 year old”.
- Today over 700 streets in the Unites States are named after Martin Luther King Jr. There is one such street in almost every major city.
- King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was not his first at the Lincoln Memorial.
- King narrowly escaped an assassination attempt a decade before his death.
- Members of King’s family did not believe James Earl Ray acted alone.
- King’s mother was also slain by a bullet in 1974.
- George Washington is the only other American to have had his birthday observed as a national holiday.
Martin Luther King Jr. inspired the human race to strive for harmony among all people. His tragic death shocked the nation, but his words and his dedication to equality continue to inspire younger generations.
I hope these famous Martin Luther King Jr. quotes lift your heart and spirit.
“Lightning makes no sound until it strikes.” -Martin Luther King Jr.
“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.” -Martin Luther King Jr.
“The quality, not the longevity, of one’s life is what is important.” -Martin Luther King Jr.
“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.” -Martin Luther King Jr.
“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” -Martin Luther King Jr.
“Only in the darkness can you see the stars.” -Martin Luther King Jr.
“No one really knows why they are alive until they know what they’d die for.” -Martin Luther King Jr.
“No person has the right to rain on your dreams.” -Martin Luther King Jr.
“A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.” -Martin Luther King Jr.
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'” -Martin Luther King Jr.
“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.” -Martin Luther King Jr.
“I came to the conclusion that there is an existential moment in your life when you must decide to speak for yourself; nobody else can speak for you.” -Martin Luther King Jr.
“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.” -Martin Luther King Jr.
“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.” -Martin Luther King Jr.
“All progress is precarious, and the solution of one problem brings us face to face with another problem.” -Martin Luther King Jr.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” -Martin Luther King Jr.
“Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals.” -Martin Luther King Jr.
“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” -Martin Luther King Jr.
“Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself.” -Martin Luther King Jr.
“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” -Martin Luther King Jr.
Tags:famous peoplelife lessonsMartin Luther King Jr. QuotesQuotes
— Hannah Hutyra
The Triple Evils of POVERTY, RACISM and MILITARISM are forms of violence that exist in a vicious cycle. They are interrelated, all-inclusive, and stand as barriers to our living in the Beloved Community. When we work to remedy one evil, we affect all evils. To work against the Triple Evils, you must develop a nonviolent frame of mind as described in the “Six Principles of Nonviolence” and use the Kingian model for social action outlined in the “Six Steps for Nonviolent Social Change.”
Some contemporary examples of the Triple Evils are listed next to each item:
Poverty – unemployment, homelessness, hunger, malnutrition, illiteracy, infant mortality, slums…
“There is nothing new about poverty. What is new, however, is that we now have the resources to get rid of it. The time has come for an all-out world war against poverty … The well off and the secure have too often become indifferent and oblivious to the poverty and deprivation in their midst. Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation. No individual or nation can be great if it does not have a concern for ‘the least of these.”
Racism – prejudice, apartheid, ethnic conflict, anti-Semitism, sexism, colonialism, homophobia, ageism, discrimination against disabled groups, stereotypes…
“Racism is a philosophy based on a contempt for life. It is the arrogant assertion that one race is the center of value and object of devotion, before which other races must kneel in submission. It is the absurd dogma that one race is responsible for all the progress of history and alone can assure the progress of the future. Racism is total estrangement. It separates not only bodies, but minds and spirits. Inevitably it descends to inflicting spiritual and physical homicide upon the out-group.”
Militarism – war, imperialism, domestic violence, rape, terrorism, human trafficking, media violence, drugs, child abuse, violent crime…
“A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war- ‘This way of settling differences is not just.’ This way of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
Source: “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?” by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; Boston: Beacon Press, 1967.
SIX PRINCIPLES OF NONVIOLENCE
Fundamental tenets of Dr. King’s philosophy of nonviolence described in his first book, Stride Toward Freedom. The six principles include:
- PRINCIPLE ONE: Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people.
It is active nonviolent resistance to evil.
It is aggressive spiritually, mentally and emotionally.
- PRINCIPLE TWO: Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding.
The end result of nonviolence is redemption and reconciliation.
The purpose of nonviolence is the creation of the Beloved Community.
- PRINCIPLE THREE: Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice not people.
Nonviolence recognizes that evildoers are also victims and are not evil people.
The nonviolent resister seeks to defeat evil not people.
- PRINCIPLE FOUR: Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform.
Nonviolence accepts suffering without retaliation.
Unearned suffering is redemptive and has tremendous educational and transforming possibilities.
- PRINCIPLE FIVE: Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate.
Nonviolence resists violence of the spirit as well as the body.
Nonviolent love is spontaneous, unmotivated, unselfish and creative.
- PRINCIPLE SIX: Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice.
The nonviolent resister has deep faith that justice will eventually win.
Nonviolence believes that God is a God of justice.
SIX STEPS OF NONVIOLENT SOCIAL CHANGE
The Six Steps for Nonviolent Social Change are based on Dr. King's nonviolent campaigns and teachings that emphasize love in action. Dr. King's philosophy of nonviolence, as reviewed in the Six Principles of Nonviolence, guide these steps for social and interpersonal change.
- INFORMATION GATHERING:To understand and articulate an issue, problem or injustice facing a person, community, or institution you must do research. You must investigate and gather all vital information from all sides of the argument or issue so as to increase your understanding of the problem. You must become an expert on your opponent's position.
- EDUCATION:It is essential to inform others, including your opposition, about your issue. This minimizes misunderstandings and gains you support and sympathy.
- PERSONAL COMMITMENT:Daily check and affirm your faith in the philosophy and methods of nonviolence. Eliminate hidden motives and prepare yourself to accept suffering, if necessary, in your work for justice.
- DISCUSSION/NEGOTIATION:Using grace, humor and intelligence, confront the other party with a list of injustices and a plan for addressing and resolving these injustices. Look for what is positive in every action and statement the opposition makes. Do not seek to humiliate the opponent but to call forth the good in the opponent.
- DIRECT ACTION: These are actions taken when the opponent is unwilling to enter into, or remain in, discussion/negotiation. These actions impose a "creative tension" into the conflict, supplying moral pressure on your opponent to work with you in resolving the injustice.
- RECONCILIATION:Nonviolence seeks friendship and understanding with the opponent. Nonviolence does not seek to defeat the opponent. Nonviolence is directed against evil systems, forces, oppressive policies, unjust acts, but not against persons. Through reasoned compromise, both sides resolve the injustice with a plan of action. Each act of reconciliation is one step close to the 'Beloved Community.'
Based on Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail" in Why We Can't Wait, Penguin Books, 1963.
We often view the Six Steps as a phases or cycles of a campaign rather than steps because each of them embodies a cluster or series of activities related to each of the other five elements.
THE BELOVED COMMUNITY
“The Beloved Community” is a term that was first coined in the early days of the 20th Century by the philosopher-theologian Josiah Royce, who founded the Fellowship of Reconciliation. However, it was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., also a member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, who popularized the term and invested it with a deeper meaning which has captured the imagination of people of goodwill all over the world.
For Dr. King, The Beloved Community was not a lofty utopian goal to be confused with the rapturous image of the Peaceable Kingdom, in which lions and lambs coexist in idyllic harmony. Rather, The Beloved Community was for him a realistic, achievable goal that could be attained by a critical mass of people committed to and trained in the philosophy and methods of nonviolence.
Dr. King’s Beloved Community is a global vision, in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth. In the Beloved Community, poverty, hunger and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it. Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood. In the Beloved Community, international disputes will be resolved by peaceful conflict-resolution and reconciliation of adversaries, instead of military power. Love and trust will triumph over fear and hatred. Peace with justice will prevail over war and military conflict.
Dr. King’s Beloved Community was not devoid of interpersonal, group or international conflict. Instead he recognized that conflict was an inevitable part of human experience. But he believed that conflicts could be resolved peacefully and adversaries could be reconciled through a mutual, determined commitment to nonviolence. No conflict, he believed, need erupt in violence. And all conflicts in The Beloved Community should end with reconciliation of adversaries cooperating together in a spirit of friendship and goodwill.
As early as 1956, Dr. King spoke of The Beloved Community as the end goal of nonviolent boycotts. As he said in a speech at a victory rally following the announcement of a favorable U.S. Supreme Court Decision desegregating the seats on Montgomery’s busses, “the end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the Beloved Community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opponents into friends. It is this type of understanding goodwill that will transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age. It is this love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of men.”
An ardent student of the teachings of Mohandas K. Gandhi, Dr. King was much impressed with the Mahatma’s befriending of his adversaries, most of whom professed profound admiration for Gandhi’s courage and intellect. Dr. King believed that the age-old tradition of hating one’s opponents was not only immoral, but bad strategy which perpetuated the cycle of revenge and retaliation. Only nonviolence, he believed, had the power to break the cycle of retributive violence and create lasting peace through reconciliation.
In a 1957 speech, Birth of A New Nation, Dr. King said, “The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community. The aftermath of nonviolence is redemption. The aftermath of nonviolence is reconciliation. The aftermath of violence is emptiness and bitterness.” A year later, in his first book Stride Toward Freedom, Dr. King reiterated the importance of nonviolence in attaining The Beloved Community. In other words, our ultimate goal is integration, which is genuine inter-group and inter-personal living. Only through nonviolence can this goal be attained, for the aftermath of nonviolence is reconciliation and the creation of the Beloved Community.
In his 1959 Sermon on Gandhi, Dr. King elaborated on the after-effects of choosing nonviolence over violence: “The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community, so that when the battle’s over, a new relationship comes into being between the oppressed and the oppressor.” In the same sermon, he contrasted violent versus nonviolent resistance to oppression. “The way of acquiescence leads to moral and spiritual suicide. The way of violence leads to bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers. But, the way of non-violence leads to redemption and the creation of the beloved community.”
The core value of the quest for Dr. King’s Beloved Community was agape love. Dr. King distinguished between three kinds of love: eros, “a sort of aesthetic or romantic love”; philia, “affection between friends” and agape, which he described as “understanding, redeeming goodwill for all,” an “overflowing love which is purely spontaneous, unmotivated, groundless and creative”…”the love of God operating in the human heart.” He said that “Agape does not begin by discriminating between worthy and unworthy people…It begins by loving others for their sakes” and “makes no distinction between a friend and enemy; it is directed toward both…Agape is love seeking to preserve and create community.”
In his 1963 sermon, Loving Your Enemies, published in his book, Strength to Love, Dr. King addressed the role of unconditional love in struggling for the beloved Community. ‘With every ounce of our energy we must continue to rid this nation of the incubus of segregation. But we shall not in the process relinquish our privilege and our obligation to love. While abhorring segregation, we shall love the segregationist. This is the only way to create the beloved community.”
One expression of agape love in Dr. King’s Beloved Community is justice, not for any one oppressed group, but for all people. As Dr. King often said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” He felt that justice could not be parceled out to individuals or groups, but was the birthright of every human being in the Beloved Community. I have fought too long hard against segregated public accommodations to end up segregating my moral concerns,” he said. “Justice is indivisible.”
In a July 13, 1966 article in Christian Century Magazine, Dr. King affirmed the ultimate goal inherent in the quest for the Beloved Community: “I do not think of political power as an end. Neither do I think of economic power as an end. They are ingredients in the objective that we seek in life. And I think that end of that objective is a truly brotherly society, the creation of the beloved community”
In keeping with Dr. King’s teachings, The King Center embraces the conviction that the Beloved Community can be achieved through an unshakable commitment to nonviolence. We urge you to study Dr. King’s six principles and six steps of nonviolence, and make them a way life in your personal relationships, as well as a method for resolving social, economic and political conflicts, reconciling adversaries and advancing social change in your community, nation and world.