Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration

Monday, January 20, 2014
9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Join us for a special celebration to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Create art inspired by African American artists, then step into our family reading area to learn more about Dr. King’s life and work. Quotes from his writing and speeches will be mounted throughout the Museum to help your family think about how to celebrate this important holiday.

E. W. Wainwright and the African Roots of Jazz

Special Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration performance

Monday, January 20
11 a.m. & 1 p.m.


Raise your voices to honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Renowned drummer E. W. Wainwright will share reminiscences from his experiences with the civil rights movement. He and his ensemble will perform songs that remind us that Dr. King’s message is as relevant today as it was in 1963.

Ways to Celebrate with Kids

Walk the Walk: Most children learn about Dr. King as an individual, but the changes that came about during the Civil Rights era of the 1960s were the result of a massive social movement, not the actions of one man. Families can “take to the streets” and plan a walk to raise money for a local charity of nonprofit organization that your children care about. Although the cause may be different than those Dr. King fought for, the message to children will be the same: “When we all march together, we can change things” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Create a multicultural banquet: One of Dr. King’s greatest achievements was his ability to help Americans appreciate diversity. Celebrate his birthday with an eclectic holiday dinner featuring cuisine from different countries of geographical regions.

Visit another House of Worship: Many children think Dr. King was a physician; they have no idea that he was a minister who preached regularly. Celebrate his birthday weekend and promote religious tolerance by taking children to a church, temple, or synagogue other than your own. “Even though we sing different hymns, we all believe in the same God” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Brief Biography

One of the most visible advocates of nonviolence and direct action as methods of social change, Martin Luther King, Jr. was born in Atlanta on January 15, 1929.  As the grandson of a pastor and founder of Atlanta’s NAACP chapter and the son of a pastor, Dr. King’s roots were in the African-American Baptist church.  Through study, Dr. King deepened his understanding of theological scholarship and explored Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolent strategy for social change.  King married Coretta Scott in 1953 and they had four children.

Dr. King’s involvement with the civil rights movement began with the arrest of Mrs. Rosa Parks in 1955.  Mrs. Parks, an African-American seamstress on her way home from work, was arrested for not giving a white bus rider her seat.  Dr. King and the other African-American community leaders felt a protest was needed and the Supreme Court ended their bus boycott by declaring that Alabama’s state and local laws requiring segregation on buses were illegal.

In January 1957, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) was formed with Dr. King as their president.  The following May 17, Dr. King would lead a mass march of 37,000 people to the front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC.

Dr. King had become the undisputed leader of the civil rights movement.

During his lifetime, Dr. King fought for African-American voter registration, desegregation, and better education and housing opportunities for all.  On August 28, 1963, 200,000 people gathered in the front of the Lincoln Memorial to hear his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.  Dr. King went on to receive a Nobel Peace Prize nomination and was Time Magazine’s “Man of the Year.”

Tragically, Dr. King was shot and killed leaving a motel room on April 4, 1968.

Fifteen years after Dr. King’s death, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill into law making the third Monday of January a national holiday celebrating the birth and life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Principles of Nonviolence

  • Nonviolence is not passive, but requires courage;
  • Nonviolence seeks reconciliation, not defeat of an adversary;
  • Nonviolent action is directed at eliminating evil, not destroying an evil-doer;
  • A willingness to accept suffering for the cause, if necessary, but never to inflict it;
  • A rejection of hatred, animosity or violence of the spirit, as well as refusal to commit physical violence; and
  • Faith that justice will prevail.

How to Learn More

Your family can learn more about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday through the following Web sites:

  • The Martin Luther King Jr. Institute
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