2 Books I Really Love by Martin Luther King, Jr.

by Mark Votava


1. The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. edited by Clayborne Carson.

This is a great book as Martin Luther King, Jr. recounts his journey through what was happening through the civil rights movement.  We get to see his personal struggles, his fear, his courage and his passion throughout the book.  Highly recommended reading to understand Martin Luther King, Jr.’s stance on nonviolence, racism, love, community and justice in the world.



“…capitalism is always in danger of inspiring men to be more concerned about making a living than making a life.  We are prone to judge success by the index of our salaries or the size of our automobiles, rather than by the quality of our service and relationship to humanity…”

“The Kingdom of God is neither the thesis of individual enterprise nor the antithesis of collective enterprise, but a synthesis which reconciles the truths of both.”

“Gandhi was probably the first person in history to lift the love ethic of Jesus above mere interaction between individuals to a powerful and effective social force on a large scale.  Love for Gandhi was a potent instrument for social and collective transformation.  It was in this Gandhian emphasis on love and nonviolence that I discovered the method for social reform that I had been seeking…”

“…growth comes through struggle.”

“We, the disinherited of this land, we who have been oppressed so long, are tired of going through the long night of captivity.  And now we are reaching out for the daybreak of freedom and justice and equality.  May I say to you, my friends, as I come to a close… that we must keep … God in the forefront.  Let us be Christian in all our actions.  But I want to tell you this evening that it is not enough for us to talk about love.  Love is one of the pivotal points of the Christian faith.  There is another side called justice.”

“You must not harbor anger…  You must be willing to suffer the anger of the opponent, and yet not return anger.  You must not become bitter.  No matter how emotional your opponents are, you must be calm.”

“Lord, I’m down here trying to do what’s right.  I think I’m right.  I am here taking a stand for what I believe is right.  But Lord, I must confess that I’m weak now, I’m faltering.  I’m losing my courage.  Now, I’m afraid.  And I can’t let the people see me like this because if they see me weak and losing courage, they will begin to get weak.  The people are looking to me for leadership, and if I stand before them without strength and courage, they too will falter.  I am at the end of my powers.  I have nothing left.  I’ve come to the point where I can’t face it alone.”

“My great prayer is always for God to save me from the paralysis of crippling fear, because I think when a person lives with the fears of the consequences for his personal life he can never do anything in terms of lifting the whole of humanity and solving many of the social problems which we confront in every age and every generation.”

“Often the path to freedom will carry you through prison.”

“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed…”

“But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label.  Was not Jesus an extremist for love…  So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be.  Will we be extremists for hate or for love?  Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?…”

2. Strength to Love.

It is clear in this book that Martin Luther King, Jr. believes that the greatest force in the world is love.  Strength to Love has themes of becoming transformed nonconformists, being a good neighbor, dealing with shattered dreams, antidotes to fear, a pilgrimage to nonviolence, loving our enemies and addressing the American status quo lifestyle.  This is a great book to help us to understand Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and passion.



“Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking.  There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions.  Nothing pains some people more than having to think.”

“Many people fear nothing more terribly than to take a position which stands out sharply and clearly form the prevailing opinion…”

“The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists, who are dedicated to justice, peace, and brotherhood…”

“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…”

“We talk eloquently about our commitment to the principles of Christianity, yet our lives are saturated with the practices of paganism…”

“The degree to which we are able to forgive determines the degree which we are able to love our enemies.”

“By its very nature, hate destroys and tears down; by its very nature, love creates and builds up.  Love transforms with redemptive power.”

“Love is the most durable power in the world…”

“In a real sense, all life is interrelated.  All men are caught up in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.  Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.  I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.  This is the interrelated structure of reality.”

“Hatred and bitterness can never cure the disease of fear; only love can do that.  Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it.  Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it.  Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.”

“We must learn that to expect God to do everything while we do nothing is not faith, but superstition.”

“I have discovered that the highest good is love…  It is the great unifying force of life.  God is love.  He who loves has discovered the clue to the meaning of ultimate reality; he who hates stands in immediate candidacy for nonbeing.”

What do you like most about Martin Luther King, Jr.?