MLK Jr. Quotes: Seven Powerful Sayings on 50th Anniversary of Assassination

On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated at the age of 39 on the second-floor balcony at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. Fifty years later, King's legacy and his courage in speaking out against injustices live on through his words.

King helped organize the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott in hopes of ending segregation and emerged as a young leader of the modern Civil Rights Movement. His advocacy for nonviolence, inspired by Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi, led him to create a powerful campaign for equality.

King is seen as one of America's greatest speakers, and his words are viewed as relevant even today. King's most famous 1963 speech, "I Have a Dream," is one of the most telling speeches in the nation's history and has become an enduring symbol of freedom.

MLK Mountaintop
Caught in a somber mood, Dr. Martin Luther King addresses some 2,000 people on the eve of his death, giving the speech "I've Been to the Mountaintop." The former founder and chairman of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference was slain on April 4, 1968. Bettmann/Contributor

Here are some of King's most powerful quotes:

1. From Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963:

"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. The true neighbor will risk his position, his prestige, and even his life for the welfare of others."

2. From his "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech, April 3, 1968. In his final public speech, King spoke inside a crowded Memphis church, the day before he was assassinated. It is considered one of the top 100 American speeches in the 20th century:

"Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. 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. So I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything, I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."

American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. receives the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway. Bettmann

3. From his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in Oslo, December 10, 1964. King received the prize for his nonviolent campaign against racism:

"I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality."

4. From Strength to Love,1963. King's publication is a collection of sermons and his second book:

"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."

"Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it."

5. From his Glenville High School speech in Cleveland, April 26, 1967:

"If you can't fly, run, if you can't run, walk, if you can't walk, crawl, but by all means, keep moving."

6. From his "Where Do We Go From Here?" speech, August 16, 1967, at the 11th Annual Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) Convention, in Atlanta:

"When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds of despair (Well), and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights (Well), let us remember (Yes) that there is a creative force in this universe working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil (Well), a power that is able to make a way out of no way (Yes) and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. Let us realize that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

7. From a sermon on courage in Selma, Alabama, March 8, 1965:

"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."