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

August 18  and August 19, 2017: The theme of this two-day event at the National Civil Rights Museum is "Where Do We Go From Here?" A free symposium kicks off Friday with workshops open to all who want to enhance their creativity as a poet, spoken-word artist, or community activist. The Slam, Saturday's big event, features poets who will perform their original works for an audience and a panel of judges. Participants compete for chances to win cash prizes in three categories. There will also be performances by some noncompeting poets and musicians.

MLK Soul Concert Series

Five Friday Evenings in September 2017: The courtyard in the National Civil Rights Museum will be the venue for a series of free outdoor concerts in downtown Memphis.

The wide variety of music will range from jazz to soul, and concertgoers can dance on the lawn. Concert nights also include spoken-word artists, speeches, food trucks, and more.

  • 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 will take place at the historic Clayborn Temple and at the National Civil Rights Museum. It will highlight the contribution of churches to the civil rights movement and also focus on contemporary issues. The teach-in will include keynote addresses by nationally recognized clergy and scholars, as well as sermons on issues of modern racial and economic justice. There will be performances by local gospel choirs and an art exhibit by local high school students related to the theme "Church and the Civil Rights."

    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.