1964: A pivotal year in MLK’s history turns 50

On December 10, 1964, Dr. King did not forget that the Nobel Peace Prize was not for him alone. He knew that while he, in that moment, lived, so many others like Evers had died and they all had made great sacrifices.  “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,” he said early in his address.

“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 seeking 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 sanctuary to those who would not accept segregation.”

Reiterating his unwavering faith in and commitment to nonviolence as the key for moral and social deliverance, he said, “[N]onviolence 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. Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts. Negroes of the United States, following the people of India, have demonstrated that nonviolence is not sterile passivity, but a powerful moral force which makes for social transformation. Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.”

Jason Carter, grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, who hopes to become Georgia’s next governor, a position his grandfather once held, told theGrio the morning after stopping by the dinner, “My personal heritage, I’ve always felt, my grandfather has always felt, is bound up in King’s legacy. Because when my grandfather received the Nobel Prize of his own, he stood up and said that he was only there because of Dr. King. And no one would have taken my grandfather seriously as a world leader, as a white person from the South, had it not been for King’s legacy and the legacy of the civil rights movement . . . . I think he’s Georgia’s greatest leader. The impact that he’s had on the world set the stage for Georgia to be so much more than it ever would have.”

In the 50th anniversary of both the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Dr. King being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize; on the heels of the jubilee of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 2013, as well as the heart-wrenching loss of the four little girls in Birmingham; and in anticipation of the jubilee celebration of the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Dr. King’s work continues to inspire and challenge.

“We still have a ways to go to achieve the dreams of my brother,” the 86-year-old Christine King Farris, who was in Oslo when Dr. King accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, told theGrio. “We still have a lot of do but we are moving along.”

Follow Ronda Racha Penrice on Twitter at @RondaRacha

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