Don't Know Much

Don’t Know Much About® Martin Luther King, Jr.



Born January 15, 1929
Courtesy of the National Archives.


Thinking about Martin Luther King, Jr. –born Michael Luther King, Jr. on his actual birthday on January 15, 1929— I came across the presentation speech given when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. In it, Gunnar Jahn, Chairman of the Nobel Committee, said of Dr, King:

He is the first person in the Western world to have shown us that a struggle can be waged without violence. He is the first to make the message of brotherly love a reality in the course of his struggle, and he has brought this message to all men, to all nations and races.

Today we pay tribute to Martin Luther King, the man who has never abandoned his faith in the unarmed struggle he is waging, who has suffered for his faith, who has been imprisoned on many occasions, whose home has been subject to bomb attacks, whose life and the lives of his family have been threatened, and who nevertheless has never faltered.

On Monday January 21, 2013, Dr. King’s life will be marked by a federal holiday (3d Monday in January) celebrating his life and achievements. It is now a day that many try and set aside as a Day of Service in honor of Dr. King’s memory. That day will also see the public inauguration of Barack Obama for his second term. The Obama White House announced that the President would use Bibles belonging to Abraham Lincoln and Dr. King to take the oath of office.

As the nation marks the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and a new monument on the Mall in Washington honors Dr. King, the symbolism of America’s first black president using these Bibles is extraordinary.

Much attention will be paid on Monday to Dr. King’s most famous speech, the “I Have a Dream” oration given in Washington on August 23, 1963. Less familiar is his Nobel Peace Prize lecture which also deserves a reading. These words come from his Nobel lecture:

Nonviolence has also meant that my people in the agonizing struggles of recent years have taken suffering upon themselves instead of inflicting it on others. It has meant, as I said, that we are no longer afraid and cowed. But in some substantial degree it has meant that we do not want to instill fear in others or into the society of which we are a part. The movement does not seek to liberate Negroes at the expense of the humiliation and enslavement of whites. It seeks no victory over anyone. It seeks to liberate American society and to share in the self-liberation of all the people.

Citation: “Martin Luther King Jr. – Nobel Lecture: The Quest for Peace and Justice”. 15 Jan 2013

This  New York Times obituary appeared  a day after his death on April 4, 1968.

The National Endowment for the Humanities offers a wide range of resources on Dr. King’s life and legacy. Stanford University also maintains an extensive collection of material on Martin Luther King, Jr. at the King Institute.

The history of slavery, the Civil War and the civil rights movement are covered at length in  Don’t Know Much About History, Don’t Know Much About the American Presidents and Don’t Know Much About the Civil War.


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