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Remembering MLK:

The Man. The Movement. The Moment.
virtual broadcast

SUNday, April 4, 2021 • 5:00pm Central


The National Civil Rights Museum will present a virtual commemoration in honor of Dr. King’s life and legacy on the 53rd anniversary of his death.  The museum is closed on the Easter Sunday holiday on April 4. Guests are welcome to pay tribute to Dr. King in the museum courtyard.

Each year the Museum commemorates the tragic event that occurred on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in 1968. This year’s event will feature A Conversation with Rev. James Lawson, a key King ally and stalwart of nonviolent philosophy who trained a number of activists on civil disobedience. NBC correspondent, Tracie Potts, will moderate the conversation. The ecumenical tribute includes invocation by Bishop David P. Talley of the Catholic Diocese of Memphis.

The keynote speaker is Dr. Bernard L. Richardson, the Dean of the historic Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel and the executive officer for religious affairs at Howard University. His remarks will explore King's life and his legacy of altruism.  Under his leadership, the Chapel impacts students through initiatives including Alternative Spring Break (ASB), HU Day of Service, the Interfaith Advisory Board, Justice for Juveniles Prison Ministry and the University’s first Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School. He has set an example in affirming religious diversity and freedom both on campus and throughout the community.

The museum’s tour guides will perform the poem “Martin Luther King, Jr.” by Gwendolyn Books. Musical performances by vocalists Karen Brown and Chris Barnes, directed by Garry Goin, are slated during the commemoration and concludes with "Precious Lord," Dr. King's favorite gospel hymn, rendered by the vocal ensemble Adajyo. The broadcast will culminate with the tolling of bells and a moment of silence at 6:01pm, the time Dr. King was shot on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. 

Following the commemoration is the premiere of "Caged," a commissioned Chamber Orchestra piece by African American composer Brian Nabors, and performed by Iris Orchestra’s Artist Fellows and Memphis Symphony Orchestra/University of Memphis Fellows, two prestigious programs dedicated to emerging musicians from African American and Latinx communitues, which are historically underrepresented populations in classical music. The piece was written for the fellows to further the commitment to uplift the community during the pandemic. Nabors commented, “What a gift it is to have something so powerful as music continue to lift our spirits and eventually pull us through to the other side.”

The performing artists include Katie Brown, Amaro Dubois, Allison Lovera, Estefan Perez and Carrington Truehart.



For this special "Small but Mighth Storytime" session, Museum Educator Dory Lerner will read the children’s book, Martin’s Big Words, written by Doreen Rappaport and illustrated by Bryan Collier. This story tells the story of Martin Luther King, Jr. starting with his childhood and tracing his lifetime, his leadership of the Civil Rights Movement, and his legacy as a changemaker.  The Museum will present artifacts from its teaching collection and encourage families to create a book or art work that will inspire people to help build our beloved community.



Remembering MLK: The Man. The Movement. The Moment. A virtual commemoration of Dr. King's life and legacy of a civil rights leader who continues to impact our world. 

THIS YEAR, Join us for the livestream Sunday, April 4, 2021, 5:00pm Central.

April 4th Commemoration, is an annual event remembering Dr. King at the National Civil Rights Museum.






See the Timeline: King's Last Seven Days 


Watch the MLK POV video Series on YouTube


2019 COMMEMORATION Photo Gallery

  • Due to rain, the commemoration event is moved inside in 2019.
  • Museum educator Dory Lerner conducts activities for children and families.
  • Families make peaceful protest signs during commemoration activities.
  • HBCU LeMoyne Owen College Choir performs.
  • Dr. Omid Safi of Duke University is keynote speaker.
  • Civil rights icon Rev James Lawson gives remarks.
  • Civil rights icon Rev Jesse Jackson gives remarks.
  • A salute to striking Memphis Sanitation Workers of 1968.


  • Rev. Michael Pflegler gives keynote.
  • Rev. Al Green sings the finale while civil rights icons Rev. Jesse Jackson and Congressman John Lewis join hands in unity.
  • Poet Ed Mabrey delivers a special tribute to Dr. King.
  • Museum President Terri Lee Freeman sets the tone of the special occasion.
  • 105 Voices of History, HBCU National Concert Choir
  • Civil rights Icons Revs. Ed King and Bernard Lafayette (in hats).
  • Civil rights icon John Trumpaeur Mulholland
  • Celebrity actors Glenn Turman (L) and Chris Tucker (R) with guests attend the commemoration.
  • A bell toll around the world at 6:01pm, the time King was shot.
  • Thousands gather to hear Dr. King
  • The audience is engaged by the empowering words of the speakers and performers.
  • 15,000 people from around the world paid tribute to Dr. King on the 50th anniversary of his death.

2017 Commemoration Photo Gallery

  • People pay homage to Dr. King on the anniversary of his death in 2017.
  • Community litany recited in reverence to Dr. King.
  • The Brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. pay a special tribute to Dr. King who was an Alpha.
  • Rev. William Barber gives fiery remarks.
  • Audience includes members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. as national president Gwen Boyd give keynote
  • The audience participates in the community litany.
  • Gwen Boyd and Museum President hangs the ceremonial wreath on the balcony of Room 306 where Dr. King last stood.
  • Woman donned a T-shirt with words of compassion.
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