"...I sincerely feel that this particular recognition is not an honor to be enjoyed by me personally," King writes, "but rather a tribute to the entire civil rights struggle and the millions of gallant people all over the nation who are working so untiringly to being the American dream into reality."
Leading up to being named TIME magazine's "Man of the Year" in January of 1964, King had been one of the central driving forces behind the Birmingham campaign, which sought to use nonviolent tactics, including marches and sit-ins, in order to openly yet peacefully violate laws considered unjust. It was King's aim to incite mass arrests so that avenues for negotiation might be opened. During the protests, however, the Birmingham Police Department infamously used high-pressure water jets and police dogs against protesters, to include children. As the footage was broadcast throughout the United States, the nation's attention was gripped, horrifying many white Americans, and also consolidating black Americans behind the movement.
"The fact that TIME took such cognizance of the social revolution in which we are engaged," King continues in the present letter, "is an indication that the conscience of America has been reached and that the older order which has embraced bigotry and discrimination must now yield to what we know to be right and just."
A remarkable letter by one of the 20th century's most important figures
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