With the actual birthday of The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the rearview and the official holiday honoring his legacy approaching, the nation will take a pause on Monday, Jan. 20, to remember the legacy of the beloved global civil rights leader.
As the hometown and final resting place of King, Atlanta is especially affected, not just during the holiday but every calendar day. In this city, his legacy and influence resonate as a working force, touching every resident on a daily basis.
The tangible tributes to King include the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park, The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change (The King Center), Ebenezer Baptist Church — where he co-pastored with his father — and his childhood home.
Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. are two Atlanta streets that bear his name, along with a transit station and community center in Old Fourth Ward.
Additionally, the Center for Civil and Human Rights and Morehouse College hold archival treasures of King that continue to influence future generations.
King’s remaining children, Martin III, Dexter, and Bernice, continue to carry out his life’s work. His eldest daughter, Yolanda, succumbed to complications related to a chronic heart condition in May 2007.
Not to mention, the people of Atlanta, especially the ones still living, who came in contact with King, hold invaluable information and stories of his life. They are reminders that this historic figure’s impact began not too long ago.
For these reasons, Atlanta has a lot to celebrate for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. As such, there are plenty of opportunities for Atlantans to join in the celebration and contribute to honoring a legacy that started in this city.
Georgia State Capitol
The Georgia State Capitol is holding its 35th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Tribute today, from noon to 2 pm, which welcomes a keynote address from the Consul General of Canada.
“Although Martin Luther King Jr. Day is not a national holiday in Canada, many civil society organizations, and local governments, including Toronto and Ottawa, commemorate it with events and speeches celebrating his legacy,” said Nadia Theodore, Canadian Consul General.
Theodore was selected by Martin Luther King, Jr. Advisory Council, which is housed within the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.
Sen. Emanuel Jones, chairman of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Advisory Council, said, “(Theodore) shared a story about people who immigrated from the Underground Railroad in Savannah to Canada. We share a similar history. I was intrigued by her knowledge of history and how she spoke boldly about people of color and the history of people in Canada.
“Not only was Dr. King a native son of Georgia, but an icon in the U.S.,” he added. “His legacy is just as strong internationally. I’ve been to a lot of countries, but his message is still relevant.”
Attendees will also hear from Canadian resident Janet Somerville, who worked with Dr. King in the 60s, via a pre-recorded video message in which she will reflect on her time with him.
In 1967, she asked the minister to record the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Massey Lectures, and she was later invited to write speeches for him.
The event will also include the unveiling of an interactive display, part of the Capitol Museum program, located on the fourth floor of the Capitol building.
In 2018, Senate Resolution 686 outlined the vision for the video exhibit, which will showcase Georgia’s role in the Civil Rights Movement, women’s suffrage, and more from the 1920s to the 1970s.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Advisory Council collaborated with the Center for Civil and Human Rights on this initiative. Consisting of three 65-inch screens, visitors will be able to participate in a virtual learning experience focused on decades of civil rights history.
Additionally, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the late Juanita Abernathy, renowned organizer, advocate and wife to Ralph David Abernathy, Sr. are said to be awards recipients.
“(King) preached a message of love and respect for all people,” said Gov. Brian Kemp. “This 35th commemorative occasion will reinforce his powerful message and illustrate how Georgians live and work every day to honor his legacy.”
Morehouse College, Dr. King’s alma mater, has created a series of 13 events lasting from Jan. 18-31, called “KING 2020: Remembering His Life & Legacy.”
The school plans to kick things off on Saturday, Jan. 18 with their opening exhibition “The Beloved Community.”
Taking place at the National Center for Civil and Human rights, an exhibit on King’s “Beloved Community” featuring artifacts from the Morehouse College Martin Luther King Jr. Collection will open.
The following day, on Sunday, Jan. 19, the Atlanta community will join Morehouse College to commemorate King’s legacy in the “Community-Wide Worship and Memorial Candle-Lighting Ceremony,” held at Morehouse’s Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel.
For the actual holiday, on Monday, Jan. 20. students will participate in community service activities around Atlanta for the “Bonner Office of Community Service’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.”
Then, it’s back to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights on Wednesday, Jan. 22 for the “Panel Discussion on the Beloved Community and Book Signing,” which features professions authors and community activists discussing King’s philosophy.
The speakers include Dr. Vicki Crawford, director of the Morehouse College Martin Luther King Jr. Collection and Dr. Lewis Baldwin, professor emeritus of religious studies at Vanderbilt University, who will discuss their recent book, “Reclaiming the Great World House: The Global Vision of Martin Luther King Jr.”
Other guest lecturers will include Dr. Robyn Henderson-Espinoza, founder of The Activist Theology Project, and Dr. Laura Soltis, executive director of Freedom University. They will discuss groundbreaking work at the intersection of scholarship, teaching, and activism.
The men of Morehouse plan to gather for an inspirational talk called “Martin Luther King Jr. Crown Forum: ‘Neighbors First,’” on Thursday, Jan. 23 at Morehouse College’s Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel to commemorate King’s message of love, peace, unity, and service.
And on the same day, hold the “Martin Luther King Jr. Lecture and Conversation Series: ‘Where Do We Go from Here? Building Political Power in 2020 and Beyond,’” at Morehouse College’s Ray Charles Performing Arts Center, which will welcome Stacey Abrams as a speaker.
The King Center
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change will host its “The 2020 Salute to Greatness Awards Gala” on Saturday, Jan. 18 at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta.
A fundraiser, open to the public through ticket purchase, the awards gala recognizes individuals and corporations that exemplify excellence in leadership and demonstrate a commitment to social responsibility.
Given in the spirit of Dr. King, the awards are considered The King Center’s highest honors.
Additionally, the center is offering nonviolence training, voter registration, and visits from politicians, entertainers and sports figures due to the importance of this year’s elections.
“This is an election year. For many people this is a dire election year,” said Bernice King, the center’s executive director. “And I say that on both sides of the equation. Both sides of the aisle.”
Voter registration will be apart of many events that The King Center plans to hold in the near future. There will also be demonstrations concerning the new voting machines.
According to King, The King Center will also be able to take part in a new “digital footsteps journey.”
An interactive display where visitors can walk on a path, connected to software, that with each step reveals the amount of energy the person generates and demonstrates what various devices could be powered by that energy.
Atlanta History Center
For Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Atlanta History Center is offering a series of programs, performances and historical simulations highlighting African Americans in Atlanta, which will all be free to the public.
One of the featured performances is the story of a 1963 activist envisioning a conversation with four iconic freedom fighters, written by Addace Addae Moon, Atlanta History Center’s Director of Museum Theatre, titled “Walking Through the Valley.
Other attractions include “Freedom Ride Simulation,” “African American Civil War Soldier Experience,” and a viewing of the 1963 film “I Have a Dream.”