According to 54,900 Google results, Martin Luther King Jr. said in 1961:

Do you know that Negroes are 10 percent of the population of St. Louis and are responsible for 58 percent of its crimes? We’ve got to face that. And we’ve got to do something about our moral standards. We know that there are many things wrong in the white world, but there are many things wrong in the black world, too. We can’t keep on blaming the white man. There are things we must do for ourselves.


Not quite.

According to this list he only held two speeches in 1961:

  1. The Modern Negro Activist (text)
  2. The Negro and the American Dream (text)

Neither of which contain said quote.

However, as Mohammad Patrick Ročka pointed out:

The quote above is paraphrased, and mixing up Dr. King's statements about New York and St. Louis Here is the real quote starting with the second sentence of this section extracted from of Dr. King's speech given 57 years ago ( 5 December 1957 “Some Things We Must Do,” Address Delivered at the 2nd Annual Institute on Nonviolence , Montgomery, Ala. )

"Let us be honest with ourselves, and say that we, our standards have lagged behind at many points. Negroes constitute ten percent of the population of New York City, and yet they commit thirty-five percent of the crime. St. Louis, Missouri: the Negroes constitute twenty-six percent of the population, and yet seventy-six percent of the persons on the list for aid to dependent children are Negroes. We have eight times more illegitimacy than white persons. We’ve got to face all of these things. We must work to improve these standards. We must sit down quietly by the wayside, and ask ourselves: “Where can we improve?” What are the things that white people are saying about us? They say that we want integration because we want to marry white people. Well, we know that is a falsehood. (That’s right) We know that. We don’t have to worry about that. (All right) Then on the other hand, they say some other things about us, and maybe there is some truth in them. Maybe we could be more sanitary; maybe we could be a little more clean. You may not have enough money to take a weekend trip to Paris, France, and buy all of the fascinating and enticing perfumes. You may not be able to do that, but you are not so poor that you cannot buy a five cents bar of soap (Yeah) so that you can wash before [word inaudible]. [applause] And another thing my friends, we kill each other too much. (All right, yes) We cut up each other too much. (Yes, Yes sir) There is something that we can do. We’ve got to go down in the quiet hour and think about this thing. We’ve got to lift our moral standards at every hand, at every point. You may not have a Ph.D. degree; you may not have an M.A. degree; you may not have an A.B. degree. But the great thing about life is that any man can be good, and honest, and ethical, and moral, and can have character. (Well, Yes) [applause] We must walk the street every day, and let people know that as we walk the street, we aren’t thinking about sex every time we turn around. (No, That’s right) We are not animals (No) to be degraded at every moment. (Yeah) We know that we’re made for the stars, created for eternity, born for the everlasting (Yes), and we stand by it. [applause] (All right, All right) There are some things that we can do. (Yes) We must improve our standards (Yeah); improve our conduct; we must improve our sanitary conditions; we must even improve our cultural standards. There are many things that we can do. Opportunities are open now that were not open in the past, adult education and all of these things-we must take advantage of them. (Yeah) There are things that we can do to make ourselves respected by others. Let me rush on. There’s a third thing we must do, that we can do. We must achieve excellency in our various fields of activity and our various fields of endeavor. This is a new day, and that simply means that doors are opening now that were not open in the past. Opportunities stand before us now that did not stand before us in the past. And the great challenge before the Negro at this hour is to be ready to enter these doors as they open. (Yes, All right) Ralph Waldo Emerson said in an essay back in 1871 that if a man can write a better book or preach a better sermon or make a better mousetrap than his neighbor, even if he builds his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door.13 (Yes) We must get ready and do the job, the opportunities will stand there for us."

| improve this answer | |
  • 3
    Neither speech contains the quote because it came from an article in the February 1961 edition of Harper's Magazine entitled "The Dangerous Road Before Martin Luther King" written by James Baldwin. – Legion600 Oct 4 '18 at 2:07
  • It should be noted that, while he was still being quite active, King was largely out of the public eye in 1961 & 1962. At other times he was giving speeches almost daily, but not (apparently) in that period. – Daniel R Hicks Oct 4 '18 at 11:26
  • @Legion600 I tried to verify that but only ran into paywalls. – Cees Timmerman Oct 4 '18 at 17:03
  • Found a free copy [from google books][1] Everything that comes after the words "moral standards" in your quote comes before it in the original article. [1]: books.google.com/… – Legion600 Oct 4 '18 at 21:47
  • Just curious: what were his views on inter-racial marriage? – Andrew Grimm Oct 7 '18 at 20:15

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .