Riots grow out of intolerable conditions…

Violent revolts are generated by revolting conditions and there is nothing more dangerous than to build a society with a large segment of people who feel they have no stake in it, who feel they have nothing to lose. To the young victim of the slums, this society has so limited the alternatives of his life that the expression of his manhood is reduced to the ability to defend himself physically. No wonder it appears logical to him to strike out, resorting to violence against oppression. That is the only way he thinks he gets recognition.

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

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A dream and a nightmare

In all the speaking that I have done in the United States before varied audiences, including some hostile whites, the only time that I have ever been booed was one night in our regular weekly mass meeting by some angry young men of our movement. I went home that night with an ugly feeling. Selfishly, I thought of my sufferings and sacrifices over the last twelve years. Why would they boo one so close to them? But as I lay awake thinking, I finally came to myself, and I could not for the life of me have less than patience and understanding for those young people. For twelve years I, and others like me, had held out radiant promises of progress. I had preached to them about my dream. I had lectured to them about the not too distant day when they would have freedom, “all, here and now.” I had urged them to have faith in America and in white society. Their hopes had soared. They booed because they felt that we were unable to deliver on our promises, and because we had urged them to have faith in people who had too often proved to be unfaithful. They were hostile because they were watching the dream that they had so readily accepted turn into a frustrating nightmare.

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

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“‘consumption’ of goods and services is the raison d’être of the vast majority of Americans”

When all is finally entered into the annals of sociology; when philosophers, politicians, and preachers have all had their say, we must return to the fact that a person participates in this society primarily as an economic entity. At rock bottom we are neither poets, athletes, nor artists; our existence is centered in the fact that we are consumers, because we first must eat and have shelter to live. This is a difficult confession for a preacher to make, and it is a phenomenon against which I will continue to rebel, but it remains a fact that “consumption” of goods and services is the raison d’être of the vast majority of Americans.

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

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Jackson, Reeb, Liuzzo

We certainly can never forget those who gave their lives in this struggle and who suffered in jail, but let us especially mark the sacrifices of Jimmie Lee Jackson, Rev. James Reeb, and Mrs. Viola Liuzzo as the martyrs of the faith.

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

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“our readiness to allow arms to be purchased at will”

So in a sense we are all participants in that horrible act that tarnished the image of our nation. By our silence, by our willingness to compromise principle, by our constant attempt to cure the cancer of racial injustice with the Vaseline of gradualism, by our readiness to allow arms to be purchased at will and fired at whim, by allowing our movie and television screens to teach our children that the hero is one who masters the art of shooting and the technique of killing, by allowing all these developments, we have created an atmosphere in which violence and hatred have become popular pastimes.

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

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“The most powerful weapon”

The enormous multitude was the living, beating heart of an indefinitely noble movement. It was an army without guns, but not without strength. It was an army into which no one had to be drafted. It was white, and Negro, and of all ages. It had adherents of every faith, members of every class, every profession, every political party, united by a single ideal. It was a fighting army, but no one could mistake that its most powerful weapon was love.

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

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