Martin Luther King Day Events in Memphis 2017 and 2018

MLK50 in Memphis marks the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. fifty years ago

Memphis Marks Martin Luther King Day With March To Lorraine Motel
Memphis marks Martin Luther King Day with a march to the Lorraine Motel. Getty Images News/Mike Brown

Martin Luther King Day is a state and federal holiday observed on the third Monday in January. The holiday commemorates the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose actual birthday was January 15, 1929. During one of his visits to Memphis, the civil rights leader was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel on April 4, 1968. Memphis is home to the National Civil Rights Museum, a facility built around the Lorraine Motel, which showcases the struggles and triumphs of the country's civil rights movement.

April 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. King's death in Memphis. To commemorate that day, the city will remember Dr. King with a series of events beginning August 18, 2017, and culminating on April 4, 2018. Here are some of the scheduled highlights:

MLK50 Drop the Mic Poetry Symposium & Slam

On August 18 and August 19, 2017, the Museum hosted a two-day event with the theme "Where Do We Go From Here?" A free symposium was held on Friday, August 18 with workshops open to the public. Saturday's Slam event featured poets who competed for a panel of judges and additional performances.

MLK Soul Concert Series

In September 2017, the National Civil Rights Museum hosted five Fridays of free events with a wide variety of music that ranged from jazz to soul, plus spoken-word artists, speeches, food trucks, and more. Here was the lineup:

  • September 1: Tonya Dyson
  • September 8: Courtney Little
  • September 15: Carmen Hicks
  • September 22: Devin Crutcher
  • September 29: Karen Brown

Teach-In: Church & Civil Rights

September 29 and September 30, 2017: The two-day event took place at the historic Clayborn Temple and at the National Civil Rights Museum. It highlighted the contribution of churches to the civil rights movement and also focus on contemporary issues. The teach-in included keynote addresses by nationally recognized clergy and scholars, as well as sermons on issues of modern racial and economic justice. 

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

January 15, 2018: National holiday honoring Dr. King celebrated around the country.

MLK50: Where Do We Go From Here? 

April 2 and 3, 2018: The first day of this two-day symposium covers legal issues with scholars and practitioners taking part. The second day, which is hosted by the National Civil Rights Museum, will present leaders, historians, and scholars discussing Dr. King's philosophy and ideas. Participants to be announced.

An Evening of Storytelling

April 3, 2018: A cocktail reception to serve as an opportunity to hear from icons and heroes of the civil rights movement, including modern movement makers. Check for participants closer to the event.

50th Anniversary Commemoration

April 4, 2018: The final and biggest event of the MLK50 commemoration will honor the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., with dignitaries, celebrities, scholars, movement icons, and more to be announced.  

Updated October 2017