50 Years Ago Today, MLK Was Honored for His Dedication to Peace

As we remember the day the civil rights leader was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, it is worth reminding ourselves of his messages to the world.

Civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. waves to supporters near the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington Aug. 28, 1963. King said the march was “the greatest demonstration of freedom in the history of the United States.”
Civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. waves to supporters near the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington Aug. 28, 1963. King said the march was “the greatest demonstration of freedom in the history of the United States.” AFP/Getty Images

Tuesday marks the 50th anniversary of the day Martin Luther King Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his commitment to peace and achieving racial justice through nonviolent action. Recipients of the award, considered “the world’s most prestigious prize,” receive a medal, personal diploma and prize money. After being notified of his selection on Oct. 14, 1964, King announced that he would donate his prize money of $54,123 to the cause of civil rights.

In recent years his children have been in a legal battle over the control and possible sale of the Nobel Prize as well as King’s traveling Bible. Though the feud has yet to be resolved, King’s dedication to peace, love and civil rights—the lifework that earned him the prize and a place in history—continues to live on. Here are some of his timeless messages:

1. When Malcolm X advocated that nonviolence was the “philosophy of the fool” in a 1956 sermon, King argued the opposite:

“Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.”

2. During his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech on Dec. 10, 1964, King spoke of the need for humankind to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression:

“Nonviolence is not sterile passivity, but a powerful moral force which makes for social transformation.”

3. When asked about racism and living together as brothers, King once stated the importance of togetherness:

“We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

4. In his 1963 letter (pdf) from the Birmingham, Ala., jail, he wrote of the detrimental effects of injustice:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

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