1964 December 11

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Receives Nobel Peace Prize


The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King received the Nobel Peace Prize on this day. His acceptance speech was entitled, “The Quest for Peace and Justice.” King was the second African-American to win the Nobel Peace Prize. The first was Ralph Bunche, who received the award on December 10, 1950.

Just as King was receiving this international honor, the FBI was escalating a vendetta against him. It had already decided on a secret and vicious campaign to “neutralize” King as a civil rights leader on December 23, 1963. On January 5, 1964, agents installed the first of a series of “bugs” (listening devices, not wiretaps) in one of King’s hotel rooms. Material from this and other bugs were included in an anonymous letter the FBI sent to King on November 21, 1964, containing recordings allegedly indicating King was involved in sexual escapades, and with a message seeming to tell King that his only option was to commit suicide.

King’s Nobel Prize speech (excerpt): “Yet, in spite of these spectacular strides in science and technology, and still unlimited ones to come, something basic is missing. There is a sort of poverty of the spirit which stands in glaring contrast to our scientific and technological abundance. The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as  brothers.”

Read and hear King’s Acceptance Speech: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1964/king-lecture.html

Read the Monumental Three-Volume Biography of Dr. King by Taylor Branch: Parting the Waters (1998); Pillar of Fire (1998); At Canaan’s Edge (2006)

Visit the Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington, DC: http://www.nps.gov/mlkm/index.htm

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