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42 Best Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes About Justice

Quote Graphic: “True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.”— Martin Luther King Jr.

As one of the most influential figures in the American civil rights movement, Martin Luther King Jr. is celebrated for his resolute pursuit of justice.

His philosophy was deeply rooted in the belief that through nonviolent means and a steadfast commitment to justice, significant strides could be made toward racial equality and human rights — a belief that was instrumental in shaping the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

King’s eloquent speeches and writings on justice and injustice remain a powerful testament to his vision for a more equitable and humane world.

His words continue to inspire activists and advocates for justice around the world — offering timeless wisdom on the power of nonviolent action, the importance of fighting for what is right, and the courage it takes to stand against injustice with integrity and compassion.

In this collection, we’ve curated some of King’s most impactful quotes about justice. (If you want even more of his quotes, check out our complete collection of MLK quotes.)

May these quotes inspire you to carry on King’s legacy in your pursuit of justice and equality.

The Best MLK Quotes About Justice (and Injustice)

“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

“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 the Birmingham Jail

“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.”
— Martin Luther King Jr., A Testament of Hope

“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.” — Martin Luther King Jr., A Testament of Hope

“The problems of racial injustice and economic injustice cannot be solved without a radical redistribution of political and economic power.”
— Martin Luther King Jr.

“The problems of racial injustice and economic injustice cannot be solved without a radical redistribution of political and economic power.” — Martin Luther King Jr.

“As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation -- either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.”
— Martin Luther King Jr.

“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.on

“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.”
— Martin Luther King Jr.

“One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”
— Martin Luther King Jr.

“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
— Martin Luther King Jr.

“True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.”
— Martin Luther King Jr.

“True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.”— Martin Luther King Jr.

“We must learn that passively to accept an unjust system is to cooperate with that system, and thereby to become a participant in its evil.”
— Martin Luther King Jr.

“Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.”
— Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.”
— Martin Luther King Jr., Where Do We Go from Here, 1967

“Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.” — Martin Luther King Jr., Where Do We Go from Here, 1967‍

“One has not only a legal, but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”
— Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail

“Morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated. Judicial decrees may not change the heart, but they can restrain the heartless.”
— Martin Luther King Jr.

“So I have tried to make it clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. ”
— Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail

“And one day we must ask the question, “Why are there forty million poor people in America?” And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy.”
— Martin Luther King Jr.

“A society that has done something special against the Negro for hundreds of years must now do something special for him, in order to equip him to compete on a just and equal basis.”
— Martin Luther King Jr.

“I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state sweltering in the heat of injustice and oppression, will one day be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.”
— Martin Luther King Jr., I Have a Dream

“The saving of our world from pending doom will come, not through the complacent adjustment of the conforming majority, but through the creative maladjustment of a nonconforming minority.”
— Martin Luther King Jr.

“Right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”
— Martin Luther King Jr.

“Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”
— Martin Luther King Jr.

“Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.”
— Martin Luther King Jr.

“Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.” — Martin Luther King Jr.

“It is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear?… It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.”
— Martin Luther King Jr., The Other America, 1968

“White Americans must recognize that justice for black people cannot be achieved without radical changes in the structure of our society.
— Martin Luther King Jr., Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?, 1967

“The Universe is on the side of Justice.”
— Martin Luther King Jr.

“We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak.”
— Martin Luther King Jr.

“Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”
— Martin Luther King Jr.

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”
— Martin Luther King Jr.

“One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that ‘ an unjust law is no law at all.”
— Martin Luther King Jr.

“Justice too long delayed is justice denied.”
— Martin Luther King Jr.

“Justice too long delayed is justice denied.” — Martin Luther King Jr.

“I contend that the cry of “Black Power” is, at bottom, a reaction to the reluctance of white power to make the kind of changes necessary to make justice a reality for the Negro. I think that we’ve got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard. And, what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the economic plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years.”
— Martin Luther King Jr., in an interview with Mike Wallace, 1966

“Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice.”
— Martin Luther King Jr.

“Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice.” — Martin Luther King Jr.‍

“I had seen police brutality with my own eyes and watched Negroes receive the most tragic injustice in the court. All of these things had done something to my growing personality.”
— Martin Luther King Jr.

“In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard so many ministers say, ‘those are social issues with which the gospel has no real concern.’, and I have watched so many churches commit themselves to a completely other-worldly religion which made a strange distinction between body and soul, the sacred and the secular.”
— Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail

“Always be sure that you struggle with Christian methods and Christian weapons. Never succumb to the temptation of becoming bitter. As you press on for justice, be sure to move with dignity and discipline, using only the weapon of love.”
— Martin Luther King Jr.

“A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right. A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice. A man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true.”
— Martin Luther King Jr., in a speech in Selma, Alabama on March 8, 1965

“Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.
Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.
Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God’s children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.”

— Martin Luther King Jr., I Have a Dream

“The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.”
— Martin Luther King Jr., I Have a Dream

“Why is equality so assiduously avoided? Why does white America delude itself, and how does it rationalize the evil it retains?
The majority of white Americans consider themselves sincerely committed to justice for the Negro. They believe that American society is essentially hospitable to fair play and to steady growth toward a middle-class Utopia embodying racial harmony. But unfortunately this is a fantasy of self-deception and comfortable vanity.”
— Martin Luther King Jr., Where Do We Go From Here, 1967

“Freedom is not won by a passive acceptance of suffering. Freedom is won by a struggle against suffering. By this measure, Negroes have not yet paid the full price for freedom. And whites have not yet faced the full cost of justice.”
— Martin Luther King Jr., Where Do We Go from Here, 1967

“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.”
— Martin Luther King Jr.

“The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace, and brotherhood.”
— Martin Luther King Jr., A Gift of Love: Sermons from Strength to Love and Other Preachings

“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.”
— Martin Luther King Jr.

→ You might also like our curated guides to the best quotes about justice and the best quotes about social justice

Article Details

January 14, 2024 7:00 PM
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