An Icon of Civil Rights Lesson Summary Notes and Explanation in English Class 9th


‘An Icon of Civil Rights’ is a text on the speech made my Martin Luther King Jr. It was his acceptance speech after he received the Nobel Prize for peace in Oslo on December 10, 1964. 

About the Author (Speaker):

Martin Luther King Jr (1929-1968) was an American Baptist minister in addition to being a notable civil rights activist. Interestingly, he happens to be the youngest man for being the recipient of the Nobel Prize. Famous works of his include ‘I Have A Dream’ (from which the present text is from), ‘Why We Can’t Wait’ and ‘A Knock At Midnight’. 


The theme of this text is peace. Being the civil rights activist that he was, he advocates for peace in a land ridden with violence and aggression for people to live in harmony. 


The Long Night of Racial Injustice:

He begins the speech by addressing everyone who was present and proceeds to elaborate on what kind of situation he accepts the Nobel Prize for peace. This sheds light on how he is a civil rights activist and his cause through his subtle but not so subtle remarks. He states how he accepts the prize even as his people struggle against the racial injustice present in America, how he is accepting the prize on their behalf. He states how even then, his people are murdered for wishing to acquire their basic rights, how they were bombed and burned for seeking liberty and justice while being impoverished at the same time. Thus, he questions why he was being awarded the prize when peace had not yet been achieved.

Civilization and Violence:

He goes on to that the prize awarded thus is a recognition that peace thus is the solution- non violence is the best route in a society where civilization and violence are antithetical to each other. For this, he states that people ought to reject revenge, aggression and retaliation in order to live together in harmony and peace and in love, basically, for Negroes followed this to attain respect and dignity. 

The Cynical Notion:

He states that he is filled with faith in America for he does not believe that despair is the final solution to their troubles. He thus refuses to believe that they were beyond hope, that he should give up. He also refuses to believe that nations can only destroy each other for he trusts that love and truth will overcome deep rooted hatred. He believes that good will indeed triumph over evil and states that he has the ‘audacity’ to dream for a better future, one where all people had access to education, health and most importantly, dignity and freedom. He thus staunchly believes that one day, they will overcome all their struggles. 


He concludes his moving speech by stating how faith is what gives courage to face any challenge in life, how he himself receives the award renewed and inspired. Stating that being awarded this prize is more than an honour, he also says how he and his people who have not attained fame continue to fight for a better tomorrow relentlessly. He finally ends with a quote from John Keats’ ‘Ode to a Grecian Urn’ for beauty and truth of peace is, as he himself puts, ‘more precious than diamonds or silver or gold’.