It's difficult to reconcile the media landscape of our time with that of revolutionaries like Martin Luther King Jr. What would Dr. King say about our culture of learning through pictures and 60-second stories? Because like it or not, that is where we are, and fortunately, there are wonderful beacons for social justice on these platforms, speaking truth to power, and doing more than just finding inspiring Instagram captions for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. People are also conveying his message, and their own, every day. They're doing the hard work, putting in the hours, and the risk of being a public figure like Dr. King, putting themselves on the line for a cause greater than any of us.
Racism is a disease that affects everyone. If you're not the victim of it, you're the beneficiary of its systems of injustice that strangle the concept of liberty into dust. Martin Luther King, Jr. was not a popular figure when he was presenting White America with his gifted orations, noted Newsweek. He held up a mirror to white people across the country and said, "This is what you look like," and he was not thanked for it. Had he had a tool like Instagram at his disposal, I am sure that such a great man, with such marked foresight, would have wielded it like a blade against oppression and like a balm to the oppressed. In his stead, we have people like Brittany Packnett and Layla Saad taking up that mantle, and holding up that mirror.
In the spirit of celebrating his life, here are some possible inspirational Instagram quotes for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
1"We ain't gon' let nobody turn us around."
This speech from March 25, 1965, was delivered on the steps of the Alabama state capitol at the end of the march from Selma to Montgomery, according to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute. His words, spoken with his distinctive cadence, are forever linked with the need to indemnify those who were treated unjustly and with hate, and to call those who care to action. It's simple and beautiful.
2"How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."
Also from March 25, 1965.
3"...tragic disappointments and undeserved defeats do not put an end to life, nor do they wipe out the positive, however submerged it may have become beneath floods of negative experience."
This speech was delivered on Sept. 12, 1962 at the Park Sheraton in New York City after the tragic burnings of black churches in Georgia, and on the anniversary of the pre-emancipation proclamation. For years, no audio existed of this speech, but according to PBS, an intern at a New York museum in Albany found this in 2013.
4"For the hour is late. The clock of destiny is ticking out, and we must act now before it is too late."
This speech, given in Detroit at Cobo Hall on June 23, 1963, two months before his most famous "I have a dream" speech, Dr. King spoke eloquently about the injustices facing black people in Detroit and the rest of the nation. It plays like a workshop for his next speeches, which in many ways it likely was. He didn't mince words. The following three quotes are also from this speech.
5"I think we all will agree that probably the most damaging effect of segregation has been what it has done to the soul of the segregated as well as the segregator."
6"God loves all of his children, and that all men are made in His image, and that figuratively speaking, every man from a bass-black to a treble-white is significant on God's keyboard."
7"They say, 'Why don’t you do it in a gradual manner?' Well, gradualism is little more than escapism and do-nothingism, which ends up in stand-stillism."
8"We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak."
For these next quotes, they are taken from a somber speech delivered on April 4, 1967 at Riverside Church in New York City, condemning the violence and evil of the Vietnam War. In it, Dr. King speaks about the hypocrisy of white men and black men living, fighting, and dying together when they wouldn't even share space on the same block in Chicago. He speaks about the horror of a country who would spend great fortunes to fight for justice 8,000 miles away, but would let their own linger in poverty.
9"Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movements and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us."
10"I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent."
11"I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality."
From Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s, Dec. 18, 1963 speech at Western Michigan University, which was only recently discovered by their archivists. The following four quotes are also from this speech.
12"Now through our ethical and moral commitment, we must make of it a brotherhood. We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will perish together as fools. This is the great challenge of the hour. This is true of individuals. It is true of nations. No individual can live alone. No nation can live alone."
13"When I speak of love . . . this whole idea is misunderstood . . . the Greek language comes out with the word, agape. . . . Agape is creative, understanding, redemptive good will for all men. Theologians would say that this is the love of God operating in the human heart. When one rises to love on this level, he loves every man. He rises to the point of loving the person who does the evil deed while hating the deed that the person does. I believe that this is the kind of love that can carry us through this period of transition."
14"With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation to a beautiful symphony of brotherhood."
15"I believe that we will be able to emerge from the bleak and desolate midnight of man's inhumanity to man into the bright and glittering daybreak of freedom and justice. My faith is that somehow this problem will be solved."
16"I submit that however unpleasant it is, we must honestly see and admit that racism is still deeply rooted all over America. It is still deeply rooted in the North, and it's still deeply rooted in the South."
This speech, given on April 14, 1967 at Stanford University, is one of his lesser-known but most impactful speeches he ever gave. In it, he speaks about the "Other America." The one the enlightened choose not to see. The America wherein victims of segregation and racism are forced to live, and what it has meant for them. The following four quotes are also from this speech.