“Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever.” from “Letter from the Birmingham Jail”--April 16, 1963


“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” --from “Letter from the Birmingham Jail”--April 16, 1963.


“If a man hasn’t discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.” --from June 23, 1963 speech in Detroit.



“The means by which we live have outdistanced the ends for which we live. Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.” --from “Strength to Love” --1963


“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!’ ” --from “I Have a Dream speech-- August 28, 1963


“Let us hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communications and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.” --from “Letter From the Birmingham Jail” --April 16, 1963


“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.” --from “I Have a Dream” speech --Aug. 28, 1963


“Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.”--from “Letter From the Birmingham Jail” --April 16, 1963 *

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” --from March 22, 1964, speech in St. Louis.



“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 your verb agree to serve...You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” --from “The Drum Major Instinct” sermon -- February 4, 1968


“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. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down, other-centered men can build up.” --from his Nobel Prize acceptance speech --December 10, 1964


“I still believe that we shall overcome.” --from Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech-- Dec. 10, 1967


“A riot is at bottom the language of the unheard.” --from “Where Do We Go From Here?” --1967


“Let us rise up tonight with greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation.” --from “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” --April 3, 1968


“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.” --from “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” --April 3, 19968, on the eve of his assassination.


Highlights of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Life

January 15, 1929: Born in Atlanta

February, 1948: Ordained to the Baptist ministry.

June, 1948: Receives bachelor of arts degree in sociology from Moorehouse College,

June, 1951: Graduates from Crozier Theological Seminary with a bachelor of divinity degree.

June, 1953: Marries Coretta Scott.

October, 1954: Installed as pastor of the Dexter Avenue Church in Montgomery, Ala.

June, 1955: Receives doctorate in systematic theology from Boston University.

December, 1955: Unanimously elected president of Montgomery Improvement Assn., five days after Rosa Parks refuses to move to the black section of a public bus.

January, 1956: Bomb is thrown onto porch of King’s Montgomery home. No one is injured.

February, 1956: All-white grand jury indicts King and 88 black leaders of the Montgomery Improvement Assn. for conspiring to hinder the operation of a business.

June, 1958: Along with other civil rights leaders, meets with President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

September, 1958: Stabbed in the chest in Harlem by Izola Cury, a 42-year-old allegedly mentally ill woman.

February-March, 1959: Spends month in India studying Gandhi’s techniques of nonviolence.

June, 1960: Meets with President John F. Kennedy, and again in October, 1962.

April, 1963: While imprisoned for protesting, writes “Letter From Birmingham Jail.”

December, 1964: Receives Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway.

March, 1965: Leads Selma-to-Montgomery civil rights march.

August, 1966: King is stoned as he leads march though Chicago’s southwest side.

April 4, 1968: King is assassinated by James Earl Ray at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.

April 9, 1968: King is buried in Atlanta.

Milestones of the Civil Rights Movement

1954: The Supreme Court, in Brown vs Board of Education of Topeka, rules that segregation in public schools is unconstitutional. The following year, it order that public school desegregation be carried out “with all deliberate speed.”

1955: Rosa Parks refuses to give her bus seat to a white man in Montgomery, Ala., prompting a landmark bus boycott.

1957: President Dwight D. Eisenhower uses federal troops to protect black students integrating at Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas.

1960: Sit-in campaign, aimed at ending the “whites only” policy, begins with students at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C.

1961: Freedom Rides campaign, to test segregation in bus terminals serving interstate passengers, begins.

1962: Deadly riot erupts when a black student tries to enroll at the University if Mississippi.

1963: Martin Luther King Jr. delivers his “I have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington.

1964: Discrimination in public accommodations and employment outlawed by the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

1965: Historic civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala.

1965: The voting Rights Act rules out literacy tests, poll taxes and other techniques designed to deny blacks their right to vote.

1968: U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1968 prohibits discrimination in the sale or rental of about 80% of U.S. housing. The Supreme Court later rules that an 1866 federal law prohibits discrimination in the sale and rental of all property.

Sources: “The Words of Martin Luther King Jr.,” selected by Coretta Scott King and published by Newmarket Press; “Letter from the Birmingham Jail” --April 16, 1963; “I Have a Dream” speech --Aug. 28, 1963; Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech --Dec. 10, 1964; “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech --April 3, 1968. Researched by STEPHANIE STASSEL / Los Angeles Times