Now is the Time. Memphis is the Place.

MLK50 Events that Honor the Legacy of Dr. King

The Rev. Ralph Abernathy, right, and Bishop Julian Smith, left, flank Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., during I AM A MAN civil rights march in Memphis, Tenn., March 28, 1968. Photo: Jack Thornell, AP.

The Rev. Ralph Abernathy, right, and Bishop Julian Smith, left, flank Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., during I AM A MAN civil rights march in Memphis, Tenn., March 28, 1968. Photo: Jack Thornell, AP.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. King’s legacy lives on as the fight for equality continues. Join the National Civil Rights Museum and other organizations as they host events to honor his life and the monumental trail he blazed that changed the course of history.

Photo: National Civil Rights Museum

An exhibition of photographs from the Ernest Withers collection, including works from Dr. Withers’ vast archive of more than one million negatives that have never been seen by the public.

The two-day MLK50 Symposium will convene scholars, historians and thought leaders from across the country to present on the state of civil and human rights issues and racial and economic equity 50 years after the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  The Symposium will take place April 2-3, 2018, and will culminate with a commemorative ceremony on April 4, 2018, of the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination at the historic Lorraine Motel.

Lech Walesa, former President of Poland will be leading a group of high school students from Sopot, Poland, eager to learn about the Civil Rights Movement. They will also share their knowledge with their counterparts in Memphis about the Solidarity Movement that took place in Poland throughout the 80”s.

Introduction by Levar Burton. Live music elements with IRIS Orchestra. Q&A with producers Charles Hannah & Mike Jason and writer Colin Escott after the screening moderated by Stax Museum of American Soul Music director Jeff Kollath. IRIS Orchestra and the Memphis Black Arts Alliance, inc. are coordinating a community driven performance including choral singing, dance, string chamber orchestra, and spoken word in collaboration with Indie Memphis’ screening of Let Freedom Sing. This preshow, beginning at 6:30 PM, will highlight the music of the Civil Rights Movement featured in the film. Special guest speaker, the Rev. Dr. Harold Middlebrook, will also offer his unique story of the friendship and collaboration he shared with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. All attendees are entered in a raffle for one winner to receive a $6,000 valued Soul Train Cruise. Winner receives one double occupancy ocean view cabin to cruise and enjoy concerts by notable musicians including Smokey Robinson. Supported by the George Riley at MLK50 Campaign. Event partners for this special event include IRIS Orchestra, Memphis Black Arts Alliance, Stax Museum of American Soul Music, and Clayborn Temple.

Join the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and The Gospel Coalition at a special event, “MLK50: Gospel Reflections from the Mountaintop,” taking place this Tuesday and Wednesday. Key speakers include Matt Chandler, Jackie Hill Perry, Eric Mason, Russell Moore, John Piper, Benjamin Watson, and many others.

Join the NAACP Memphis Branch as they march in solidarity with AFSCME Local 1733 on April 4, 2018. Kickoff Rally 8:00 am. There will also be a reenactment of the iconic “I AM A MAN” photograph. It will be taken from a helicopter, overlooking Beale Street. The reenactment and prestigious photo will be displayed at the Withers Collection Museum and Gallery. 

This service remembers the enslaved people who were sold at the site of the antebellum slave mart owned and operated by Nathan Bedford Forrest. Students from Rhodes College, working in collaboration with local scholars, wrote the text for a new historic marker, which will be dedicated in a brief ceremony at the conclusion of the service.

Join this photo reenactment in front of the Withers Collection Museum and Gallery at Beale and Fourth Street for the reenactment of the iconic “I AM A MAN” photo from the 1968 Sanitation Workers Strike. Register today at This photo will be an aerial shot overlooking historic Beale Street taken by the granddaughter of Dr. Withers, Mrs. Eboni Bullard. The prestigious photo will be displayed at the Withers Collection Museum and Gallery and it will make its international debut at the end of ’68 I AM A MAN, a new feature film executive produced by Southern Tales Entertainment.

MLK50 schedule of events

On April 4th, at 6:01 pm, Dr. King was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel. Now, the site is the National Civil Rights Museum and it is leading the charge in continuing MLK’s work. The day’s activites include:

  • Daylong activities in the Museum Courtyard with main stage entertainment, spoken word, speakers.
  • The 6:01 50th Anniversary Commemoration – National speakers, partnership with the City of Memphis, musical/vocal/spoken word tributes, national media on site. Free to the public.
  • Evening of Storytelling – Civil Rights Icons and New Movement Leaders, national and local, dialogue about “the movement” then and now.  This will be a ticketed event.
  • If you cannot attend these events in person you can watch the livestream here.

Civil Rides is a unique 3-day cycling trek from Memphis to Jackson, Miss., to raise money and awareness for racial reconciliation and ending hunger around us.

The dedication ceremony will feature food trucks and live performances. An open house at Clayborn Temple (next to I AM A MAN Plaza) will immediately follow the event.

Following the dedication of the “I Am A Man” plaza, and in commemoration of the historic Sanitation Workers’ Strike, Clayborn Temple is hosting an open house to continue the conversation about the role this significant historic place played in the Civil Rights Movement. Please join us to learn more about the sanitation workers’ history and#TellTheFullHistory during this interactive event—we’re just across the street.

The concert will feature the PRIZM Chamber Orchestra, alongside the PRIZM Celebration Chorus, a volunteer community chorus whose members are intentionally diverse and a reflection of our city. “A Concert for the Next 50 Years” will affirm the vision of justice, peace, and human harmony of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., through selected works. Tickets are $19.68 for general admission, with a limited number of $50 VIP tickets available. The VIP experience will include a reception and a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the concert.

On April 4th, 2018, the eyes of the world will turn to Memphis as thousands gather to remember, embrace, and advance the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. on the 50th anniversary of his assassination. As part of the commemoration, on April 6th-8th, Clayborn Temple presents three preview performances of “Union: A Musical” and a community conversation that brings together community members, activists, artists, influencers, and civic leaders to discuss the ongoing work of democracy in our city and in our nation.

See the entire video short story series, centered around first-hand accounts from 1968 Memphis sanitation strikers and their families. Q&A follows, with series producer Emily Yellin, the Memphis-based crew, and special guests.

Take the MLK50 pledge today and commit to a year of peace and action.

Learn how to get involved with local social justice orgs by going here.

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