Address at the Day of Affirmation at the University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa

June 6, 1966


Cape Town, South Africa

For two centuries, my own country has struggled to overcome the self-imposed handicap of prejudice and discrimination based on nationality, social class or race—discrimination profoundly repugnant to the theory and command of our Constitution. Even as my father grew up in Boston, signs told him that “No Irish need apply.” Two generations later President Kennedy became the first Catholic to head the nation; but how many men of ability had, before 1961, been denied the opportunity to contribute to the nation’s progress because they were Catholic or of Irish extraction? . . . Even today, what price will we pay before we have assured full opportunity to millions of Negro Americans? In the last five years we have done more to ensure equality for our Negro citizens, and to help the deprived both white and black, than in the hundred years before. But much more remains to be done . . . A Negro American trains as an astronaut, one of mankind’s first explorers into outer space; another is the chief barrister of the United States government, and dozens sit on the benches of court; and another, Doctor Martin Luther King, is the second man of African descent to win the Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent efforts for social justice between the races.