On December 10, 1964—48 years ago today—the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., accepted the Nobel Peace Prize “as a trustee … on behalf of all men who love peace and brotherhood.”
Two months earlier, on October 14, 1964, news of King’s award was released. King, at only 35 years old, became the youngest winner of the prize in its 63 year history. King pledged every penny of the prize (over $50,000) to the civil rights movement.
In his acceptance speech, King expressed hope for the eventual success of the civil rights movement, and honored all those who fought for justice, stating “[I]n the depths of my heart I am aware that this prize is much more than an honor to me personally.” His speech read, in part:
I accept the Nobel Prize for Peace at a moment when 22 million Negroes of the United States are engaged in a creative battle to end the long night of racial injustice. I accept this award on behalf of a civil rights movement which is moving with determination and a majestic scorn for risk and danger to establish a reign of freedom and a rule of justice. …
I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. …
I believe that even amid today’s mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men. … I still believe that we shall overcome”
Over the next three and a half years before he was shot and killed, King continued to make a lasting impact on America through his unending dedication to nonviolence and the struggle for civil rights and equality—both in his capacity as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and in his work with other civil rights activists.
Today, King’s contributions are remembered each January on Martin Luther King Day. The Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial opened to the public in August 2011 south of the National Mall in Washington, D.C. In October 2011, politicians, public figures, and citizens from across the country came together to dedicate the memorial, which had been in planning for more than two decades.
To view a video excerpt of King’s acceptance speech, check out this link from CBS News. To read the full speech, check out this link from The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change.
To read the October 14 New York Times article announcing King’s award, click here.
Publications and collections that pay tribute to King are almost too numerous to list; here is a modest sampling:
To learn more about King, check out the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, and this blog post.
HarperOne published a collection of King’s writings and speeches: A Testament to Hope.
The University of Pennsylvania Press published Thomas F. Jackson’s From Civil Rights to Human Rights: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Struggle for Economic Justice back in 2006.