On white people who disagree with black methods of protest:

I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councillor 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; who constantly says, “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically feels that he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time; and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.”

Advertisement

Letter from a Birmingham Jail; August 1963


On black people who disagree with black protest:

We must tell our white brothers that the few Uncle Toms who will sill their souls for a mess of economic pottage do not speak for the Negro.

Advertisement

Address at Public Meeting of the Southern Christian Ministers Conference of Mississippi; September 23, 1959


On White privilege:

We must also realize that privileged groups never give up their privileges voluntarily. If we are victimized with the feeling that we can sit down comfortably by the wayside and wait for the white man to voluntarily give us our justly deserved freedom, we will be the victims of a dangerous illusion, which can only end up in tragic disillusion.

Advertisement

Address at Public Meeting of the Southern Christian Ministers Conference of Mississippi; September 23, 1959


On Police Brutality:

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality

Advertisement

I Have a Dream; August 28, 1963

I don’t believe you would have so warmly commended the police force if you had seen its angry violent dogs literally biting six unarmed, nonviolent Negroes. I don’t believe you would so quickly commend the policemen if you would observe their ugly and inhuman treatment of Negroes here in the city jail; if you would watch them push and curse old Negro women and young Negro girls; if you would see them slap and kick old Negro men and young boys, if you would observe them, as they did on two occasions, refusing to give us food because we wanted to sing our grace together. I’m sorry that I can’t join you in your praise for the police department.

Letter from a Birmingham Jail; August 1963


On economic inequality:

I had also learned that the inseparable twin of racial injustice was economic injustice. Although I came from a home of economic security and relative comfort, I could never get out of my mind the economic insecurity of many of my playmates and the tragic poverty of those living around me.

Advertisement

My Pilgrimage to Nonviolence; September 1, 1958

In the treatment of poverty nationally, one fact stands out: There are twice as many white poor as Negro poor in the United States. Therefore I will not dwell on the experiences of poverty that derive from racial discrimination, but will discuss the poverty that affects white and Negro alike.

Where Do We Go From Here? 1967


On people who called him a terrorist and a “black supremacist”:

We’re not rabble rousers; we’re not dangerous agitators, nor do we seek political dominance. Black supremacy is as bad as white supremacy. But freedom is necessary for one’s selfhood, for one’s intrinsic worth. Let us say to the white people, we’re not going to take bombs into your communities. We will not do anything to destroy you physically. We will not turn to some foreign ideology. Communism has never invaded our ranks. We’ve been loyal to America. Now we want to be free.

Advertisement

A Creative Protest; February 16, 1960


On why white people fear racial impurity:

I often find when decent treatment for the Negro is urged, a certain class of people hurry to raise the scarecrow of social mingling and intermarriage. These questions have nothing to do with the case. And most people who kick up this kind of dust know that it is simple dust to obscure the real question of rights and opportunities.

It is fair to remember that almost the total of race mixture in America has come, not at Negro initiative, but by the acts of those very white men who talk loudest of race purity. We aren’t eager to marry white girls, and we would like to have our own girls left alone by both white toughs and white aristocrats.

Advertisement

Letter to Atlanta Constitution; August 6, 1946


On reparations and asking for handouts:

I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective — the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income.

Advertisement

Where Do We Go From Here? 1967


On white people:

Who can doubt that most men today are anvils continually being molded by the patterns of the majority...

I have seen many white people who sincerely oppose segregation and discrimination, but they never took a real stand against it because of fear of standing alone.

Advertisement

Transformed Nonconformist; November 1954

In their relations with Negroes, white people discovered that they had rejected the very center of their own ethical professions. They could not face the triumph of their lesser instincts and simultaneously have peace within. And so, to gain it, they rationalized—insisting that the unfortunate Negro, being less than human, deserved and even enjoyed second class status.

They argued that his inferior social, economic and political position was good for him. He was incapable of advancing beyond a fixed position and would therefore be happier if encouraged not to attempt the impossible. He is subjugated by a superior people with an advanced way of life. The “master race” will be able to civilize him to a limited degree, if only he will be true to his inferior nature and stay in his place.

White men soon came to forget that the Southern social culture and all its institutions had been organized to perpetuate this rationalization. They observed a caste system and quickly were conditioned to believe that its social results, which they had created, actually reflected the Negro’s innate and true nature.

Advertisement

Our Struggle: April 1956

In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churches stand on the sidelines and merely mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities.

Letter from a Birmingham Jail; August 1963

Many of our white brothers are concerned only about the length of life, their preferred economic positions, their political power, their so-called way of life. If they would ever rise up and add breadth to length, the other-regarding dimension to the self-regarding dimension, we would be able to solve all of the problems (Amen) in our nation today.

Advertisement

The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life; February 28, 1960

Many white men in the South see themselves as a fearful minority in an ocean of black men. They honestly believe with one side of their minds that Negroes are depraved and disease-ridden.

Our Struggle: April 1956

On reverse racism: