October 14, 1964: Martin Luther King, Jr. Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize

On this date in history, Martin Luther King, Jr., at age 35, became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. recreates the moment he received word by phone that he has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize as he lies in hospital bed in Atlanta, Ga., October 14, 1964, where he went for a checkup

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. recreates the moment he received word by phone that he has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize as he lies in hospital bed in Atlanta, Ga., October 14, 1964, where he went for a checkup

In his acceptance speech he said:

I am mindful that only yesterday in Birmingham, Alabama, our children, crying out for brotherhood, were answered with fire hoses, snarling dogs and even death. I am mindful that only yesterday in Philadelphia, Mississippi, young people seeing to secure the right to vote were brutalized and murdered. And only yesterday more than 40 houses of worship in the State of Mississippi alone were bombed or burned because they offered a sunctuary to those who would not accept segregation.

I am mindful that debilitating and grinding poverty afflicts my people and chains them to the lowest rung of the economic ladder.

Therefore, I must ask why this prize is awarded to a movement which is beleaguered and committed to unrelenting struggle; to a movement which has not won the very peace and brotherhood which is the essence of the Nobel Prize.

After contemplation, I conclude that this award which I receive on behalf of that movement is profound recognition that nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time — the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression.

…I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the “isness” of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal “oughtness” that forever confronts him.”

His words, of course, are still relevant today. You can see a video of Dr. King delivering the speech here.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. picking up the Nobel Prize for Peace from Gunnar Jahn, president of the Nobel Prize Committee, in Oslo on December 10, 1964

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. picking up the Nobel Prize for Peace from Gunnar Jahn, president of the Nobel Prize Committee, in Oslo on December 10, 1964

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