'This is the great new problem of mankind. We have inherited a big house,
a great 'world house' in which we have to live together - black and white, Easteners and Westerners, Gentiles and Jews, Catholics and Protestants, Moslem and Hindu, a family unduly separated in ideas, cultures and interests who, because we can never again live without each other, must learn, somehow, in this one big world, to live with each other'.
- Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King was 35 years old when he received the Nobel Peace Prize, making him the youngest recipient to be awarded this honor. Even today, 44 years after his untimely death in 1968, his sentiments and words on universal peace, equality and unity still reverberate around the world - the message they impart just as relevant today as it was back then.
A pastor and committed civil rights advocate - particularly for members of his race, by 1954 Martin Luther King was on the executive committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People - the foremost organization of its kind in America.
In 1955, King assumed leadership of the first ‘peaceful’ African-American demonstration in the US - the world famous ‘bus boycott’ conducted over 382 days. In 1956, following the Supreme Court’s declaration that current laws requiring segregation on buses by Negroes and whites were unconstitutional, US citizens ‘rode the buses as equals‘.
Despite being arrested, abused and having his home attacked during the boycott, King became a prominent and highly respected leader and president of a growing civil rights movement. His beliefs and ideals were influenced by Christianity and Gandhian philosophy and he traveled extensively around America, speaking to large audiences ‘wherever there was injustice, protest, and action’.
King's legendary protest in Alabama acquired worldwide attention, resulting in what he termed ‘a coalition of conscience’, and would directly inspire his manifesto of the ‘Negro revolution’ - Letter from a Birmingham Jail.
Seeking registration and voting rights for African-Americans, King organized a massive non-violent march on Washington, where - in front of several hundred thousand people, he made his famous speech, I Have a Dream.
‘…I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together…’
Rising to world prominence as a tireless and passionate civil rights advocate and the acclaimed ‘symbolic leader’ of African-Americans, Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968, just before he was scheduled to lead another sympathetic protest march.
click 'labels' below to see more Advocates for peace - The Dalai Lama, Mata Amritanandamayi