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Correction: MLK Quote not all MLK

May 3, 2011

As I watched the number of hits our little church blog here was receiving skyrocket yesterday (in 27 minutes after posting it had become the most viewed post ever, and at over 1,800 views now I’m not sure it will ever be exceeded!) one thing stood out to me: how people were getting to the page.

Folks were finding our blog here by searching for the quote attributed to Martin Luther King, Jr. which I posted yesterday, having grabbed it from a friend of mine’s facebook posting.  As I’m sure most of you are now aware, only the last two lines of that quote are actually MLK’s words.  People were searching for the source of that quote, and since I quoted it here, they were led here.

A commenter, Mollydot, pointed out the falsehood to me, for which I thank her.

The real quote I found after reading  an Atlantic online article, again, which Mollydot pointed me towards.  I found it in the book, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community, by Martin Luther King, Jr. originally published in 1967 by Harper & Row Publishers, but republished by Beacon Press in 2010 with an Introduction by Vincent Harding and a Foreword by Coretta Scott King.  There, in Chapter 2: Black Power, is found the whole and original quote, p. 67 in the Beacon Press edition:

Are we seeking power for power’s sake? Or are we seeking to make the world and our nation better places to live.  If we seek the latter, violence can never provide the answer. The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.  Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.  Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder the hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

Reading all the way through the comments on the Atlantic article, Mollydot seems to have found the source of the original “misquote.”  She says a facebook poster by the name of Jessica Dovey had the “misquote” as her status, but actually had quotation marks around the bit that MLK actually said.  As people spread it around, they missed the quotation marks and thus misattributed the entire thing to MLK, which probably accounts for the speed of its spreading, but does an injustice to Ms. Dovey, who actually penned the first portion of the very apropos sentiment.

So, thank you to commenter Mollydot for helping me track this down, and thank you to Jessica Dovey, if you were indeed the original author of the first portion of what is being passed around.  Your thoughts were quite good and quotable in their own right.

Coming later today, a post on how to think about praying for this event, perhaps praying for Osama bin Laden, in church on Sunday (in the Prayers of the People, in the Episcopal tradition).

God bless you!

Fr. Ryan+

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Mike Fox permalink
    May 3, 2011 12:53 pm

    We had better write this down and preserve it. Otherwise, in 2000 years, the “Martin Luther King Seminar” will be voting on which MLK sayings are authentic and which aren’t. We can save them a lot of trouble.

  2. Jen permalink
    May 3, 2011 6:41 pm

    I had that quote as my status yesterday. I copied it from someone else. Thanks for honoring the true writer of the quote. From now on I shall do a little research before quoting someone. 🙂

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