A Facebook post attributes a widely shared quote to Martin Luther King Jr.

No proof quote was made by Martin Luther King Jr

FactCheck July 18, 2019

The Statement

AAP FactCheck examined a Facebook post from July 8, 2019 that claimed to be a quote from American civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King Jr.

The quote reads: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

It was posted by Dave Pellowe who describes himself as a “writer, speaker & presenter, facilitating conversations at the intersection of Truth & Politics in Society”. His Facebook page has over 3500 likes.

The Analysis

The quote has been shared widely on social media, including by Academy award-winning Australian actress Nicole Kidman, whose Facebook page has over 10.5 million likes. She shared the same quote to mark Martin Luther King Day in January, 2019. That post received over 4,200 reactions and was shared over 430 times. 

The quote has also been been included in a number of high profile speeches. Former US president Bill Clinton credited the line to Dr King in a speech at the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner in 2000. More recently, Republican Lieutenant Governor of Texas Dan Patrick included the quote in a 2017 speech, advocating for laws targeting transgender people access to bathrooms.

Nicole Kidman is one of a number of famous people who have shared the quote.

According to fact checking units Snopes and Politifact, the quote does not appear anywhere in Dr King’s speeches or writings. 

In 2017, Politifact interviewed Clayborne Carson, the Martin Luther King Jr. Centennial professor of history at Stanford University and director of a research institute in King’s name. He said it’s “easier to prove what King said on a particular occasion than to prove that he never said the quote in question on any occasion.” 

The quote resembles a line from a sermon Dr King delivered in Selma, Alabama on March 8, 1965, the day after Bloody Sunday, when civil rights protesters were attacked by police in the same city. 

In his sermon Dr King said, “A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right. A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice. A man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true.”

The Verdict 

Because there is no record of Martin Luther King Jr saying, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter,” AAP FactCheck found the Facebook post to be a mixture of true and false. 

Mixture – There isn’t sufficient evidence to give a “True” rating, but the primary claim cannot be proven to be “False” either.

First published July 18, 2019 13:43 AEST

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