Prayers for the Day
To find prayers on freedom, liberation, racial justice, reparations, etc. designed specifically
to integrate the truths of Black dignity, lament, rage, justice, and rest into written prayers
check out Cole Arthur Riley’s wonderful prayers via Black Liturgies on
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/blackliturgies/ and her website.
Quotes and Excerpts from Speeches and Sermons
Perhaps the most quoted and recognized of all of Dr. King’s speeches and sermons is his, “I Have a Dream” speech, with its iconic imagery of King on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial after a peaceful march on Washington by hundreds of thousands of protestors. And yet, it is rare that communities engage with this speech in its entirety. The dream of which King speaks is so often taken out of context and used to support a colorblind narrative that ultimately reinscribes racial injustice. Dr. King was, however, unflinching in locating this dream in the critiques, goals and tactics of the Southern Freedom/Civil Rights Movement. And King was equally clear that this was no pie-in-the-sky dream of a far-off future, but a dream whose time had long-since come, and would take struggle, and the disciplined collective power of resistance to make real.
“It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. 1963 is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.”
From “I Have a Dream” speech, given as part of the March on Washington at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, August 28, 1963
Read or listen to the full speech
For a multi-media exploration of the speech in historical context and engaged by contemporary activists, see Stanford University’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute’s Freedom’s Ring project.
In many speeches, sermons and writings, Dr. King highlighted what he understood to be the three most vexing social structures preventing the flourishing of all creation, and most directly impacting Black communities: racism, militarism, and materialism/economic exploitation/capitalism. King recognized that any movement that holds at its center dismantling discrimination based on race, must also have in its sights the structural inequities created by capitalism and the global consequences of perpetual war and imperialistic conquest. When we consider Dr. King as a “man within a movement,” we can turn to the complex systemic analysis of these three constellations of social dominance as the heart of the movement he helped build and sustain. From Black Lives Matter to Land Back, many of our contemporary movements for social justice continue the systemic and structural work aimed at combatting these strategies of dominance. Focusing on these “giant triplets” can help us imagine a fuller picture of the movement to which King contributed and consider how we might continue this “radical revolution of values” in our day.
“I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives, and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”
“A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. n the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”
From “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence” speech, given at a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church in New York City, April 4, 1967
Read the full speech
Resources for deeper exploration
Established in 1968 by Mrs. Coretta Scott King, the King Center serves not only as a destination for exploring Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s history and legacy, but also as a resource for those wanting to create a just, humane, equitable and peaceful world by applying Dr. King’s nonviolent philosophy and methodology. Check out their educational resources, historical documents, and live events, including Beloved Community talks.
An incredible repository of documents with commentaries that help illuminate their historical context and impact, the King Institute at Stanford also offers expansive and innovative educational resources, from curricula to podcasts to timelines and chronologies. Many of King’s original texts are available digitally in their entirety on the site, and accompanying articles offer deeper understandings of how each speech, sermon, letter, and essay fits within the broader movements of which King was a part.
An educational partner of the Southern Poverty Law Center, Learning for Justice offers lesson plans, curricula, and other resources for engaging more fully Dr. King’s radical history and legacy. Just reading the lessons plans provided can be a profound learning experience, but they also provide great fodder for sermons, reflections, faith formation classes, and worship experiences.
In addition to be a location for contemplation, remembrance and education, the National Park Service website for the King’s DC memorial offers many resources for learning more about Dr. King’s life and legacy, including a page of quotes from throughout King’s life, including their sources, that are featured in the memorial. Also check out the African American Civil Rights Network, a new national network of places and resources honoring the Civil Rights Movement across the United States.
- Strength to Love. New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1963.
This is a collection of Dr. King’s most requested sermons.
- Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1967.
An assessment of America’s priorities and a warning that they need to be re-ordered.
- Why We Can’t Wait. New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1963.
The essential writings of Martin Luther King, Jr., James M. Washington, ed.
- A Testament of Hope. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1986.
A collection of quotations by Dr. King selected by Mrs. Coretta Scott King focusing on seven areas of concern: The Community of Man, Racism, Civil Rights, Justice and Freedom, Faith and Religion, Nonviolence and Peace.
- A Knock at Midnight: Inspiration from the Great Sermons of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., New York: IPM in Association with Warner Books, 1998.
A collection of eleven of Dr. King’s most powerful sermons, from his earliest known audio recording to his last sermon, delivered days before his assassination. With introductions by renowned theologians and ministers including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, filled with moving personal reflections and firsthand accounts of the events surrounding each sermon.