Martin Luther King Day 2018: Nine quotes from the civil rights leader that still resonate today

'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere'

Maya Oppenheim
Monday 15 January 2018 12:48 GMT
Martin Luther King Jr's iconic I Have A Dream speech

More than three decades have passed since Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday became a national holiday across America.

But it took decades of campaigning for King’s civil rights legacy to be immortalised as a paid public holiday.

In 1968, Congress was presented with a petition signed by more than 3 million people supporting demands for a holiday.

Initially President Reagan resisted plans to make King’s birthday a public holiday, arguing it would lead to other groups and leaders to seek similar concessions.

Republicans also claimed they were concerned King had an ‘inappropriate' sexual past and links to communism.

But faced with considerable pressure, Reagan eventually relinquished his doubts and declared the third Monday of every January Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983.

This was the first national holiday in commemoration of a black American in history.

Even so, certain states refused to accept it as a holiday, giving it different names and replacing it with other holidays. It wasn’t until 2000 that South Carolina became the last state to officially accept it as a paid holiday.

Here are some of his quotes that still resonate today:

“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed”. Letter from Birmingham City Jail, 1963

“Many white Americans of good will have never connected bigotry with economic exploitation. They have deplored prejudice but tolerated or ignored economic injustice”. Why we can’t wait, 1964

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defence than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom”. Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? 1967

“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity”. Love In Action from Strength to Love, 1963

“So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools”. Beyond Vietnam, 1967

“We may all have come on different ships, but we're in the same boat now.” Origin unknown

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.I Have a Dream, 1963

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools”. St Louis, 1964

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. Letter from Birmingham City Jail, 1963

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