Presented By
From the Dec. 18, 1964, issue of TIME

When the Nobel Prize Committee announced 50 years ago next Tuesday that Martin Luther King Jr. would receive the Peace Prize, reactions were — unsurprisingly — mixed.

As TIME noted in its Oct. 23, 1964, issue, those who opposed the Civil Rights cause were outraged: the news, said one Louisiana segregationist, was evidence of Communist influence on the Committee. But beyond the bigoted strongholds of Jim Crow, support for the decision was widespread. King, at the time the youngest person ever to get that particular honor, said that he would dedicate all of the $54,000 that accompanied to award to toward the cause of equal rights.

The Civil Rights leader was, TIME reported, getting a routine physical on the day the news broke. But when he appeared in Oslo that December to collect the award, he got the chance to speak eloquently about about why that funding was still desperately needed — and why he felt a Peace Prize was appropriate for a movement that had a lot of fighting left to do.

Here’s the excerpt of his speech that TIME published in the Dec. 18 issue:

Read TIME’s full report on Martin Luther King Jr’s acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, here in the archives: Race: Two Perspectives

The full speech can be found here, at the official website of the Nobel Prize: Nobel Peace Prize 1964, Acceptance Speech

More Must-Reads From TIME

Write to Lily Rothman at

You May Also Like