Custom Search 1

Meet the black Nobel Peace Prize recipients, part 2

PEACE PIONEER: Barack Obama won the prize in 2009

THERE IS no other prize with the prestige of the Nobel Prize.

Some of the world’s most famous names have been recipients – but black winners are not often widely acclaimed. The Voice highlights the achievements of some of them, below:

To read part 1 of this piece, click here.


Professor Wangari Maathai was the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.

The Kenyan professor was renowned as a fearless social activist and an environmental crusader.

In 1977, she started a grassroots movement aimed at countering the deforestation that was threatening the means of subsistence of the agricultural population. The campaign encouraged women to plant trees in their local environments and to think ecologically. The so-called Green Belt Movement spread to other African countries and contributed to the planting of over 30 million trees.

In its citation, the Norwegian Nobel Committee noted Professor Maathai’s contribution to “sustainable development, democracy and peace”. The committee added that Professor Maathai “stands at the front of the fight to promote ecologically viable social, economic and cultural development in Kenya and in Africa”, adding: “She has taken a holistic approach to sustainable development that embraces democracy, human rights and women’s rights. She thinks globally and acts locally.”

In accepting the award, Professor Maathai said:

“I believe the Nobel committee was sending a message that protecting and restoring the environment contributes to peace; it is peace work."


At the age of 35, Martin Luther King Jr was the youngest African-American to win a Nobel Prize. The Georgia-born minister received the award in 1964 for his non-violent resistance to racial prejudice in America.

King led the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott, resisting laws which gave whites priority over blacks on bus seating.

The preacher helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), a civil rights organisation, in 1957 serving as its first president. With the SCLC, King also led an unsuccessful 1962 struggle against segregation in Albany, Georgia, and helped organise the 1963 nonviolent protests in Birmingham, Alabama.

King also helped to organise the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his famous “I have a dream” speech.

During King’s acceptance of the Nobel Prize he said that questions as to why the civil rights movement received the award had been asked, when it had not yet won the very peace and brotherhood which is the essence of the Nobel Prize. In conclusion he said:

“Non-violence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time; the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression."

He added: “Unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.”


Derek Alton Walcott was a St. Lucian poet and playwright, who received the 1992 Nobel Prize in Literature.

His works include the Homeric epic poem Omeros (1990), which many critics view as Walcott’s major literary achievement. Omeros is divided into seven books. Soon after its publication in 1990, it received praise from publications like The Washington Post and The New York Times Book Review, the latter of which chose the book as one of its ‘Best Books of 1990’.

The Nobel Committee said Derek Walcott received the award “for a poetic oeuvre of great luminosity, sustained by a historical vision, the outcome of a multicultural commitment”.

Walcott was the Professor of Poetry at the University of Essex from 2010 to 2013.


The former US President was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 2009 for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples” according to a statement from the Nobel Prize committee. The statement went on to say:

“The Committee has attached special importance to Obama’s vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons. Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics.”

Barack Hussein Obama was the 44th and President of the United States. He was the first African-American to hold office.

Obama previously served as a United States Senator from Illinois, from January 2005 until he resigned following his victory in the 2008 presidential election. He served two presidential terms.

To read part 1 of this piece, click here.

The Voice is celebrating its 35th birthday this year. Share your Voice memories, comments and birthday wishes on social media, using the following hash tag: #Voice35Years

Read every story in our hardcopy newspaper for free by downloading the app.

Facebook Comments