Fact Check

Martin Luther King: 'Do Not Rejoice in the Death of One'

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., did not say he 'will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy.'

Published May 4, 2011

 (Wikimedia Commons/Dick DeMarsico)
Image Via Wikimedia Commons/Dick DeMarsico
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said he 'will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy.'

This purported quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., expressing his viewpoint that he would not rejoice in the death of anyone, even an enemy, was widely circulated in the wake of the killing of terrorist Osama bin Laden by U.S. forces in May 2011:

Example:   [Collected via e-mail, May 2011]

A number of people have been circulated the following quote, in response to Osama Bin Laden's death: "I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, 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." — Martin Luther King, Jr.

I'm also seeing a lot of commentary that this quote is fake and MLK did not say it. Did he say it?

The last three sentences are a genuine King quote from his book Strength to Love, but the sentiment expressed in the first sentence was from Facebook user Jessica Dovey, who buttressed her own thought with remarks from Dr. King that were appropriately set off by quotation marks and identified as his. Somewhere in transmission around the online world, the quotation marks were misplaced, leaving the entire passage to be mistaken as the words of Dr. King.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.