Martin Luther King Jr. Day is just around the corner and people across the nation are busy making final preparations for a number of special events. Held annually on the third Monday of January, MLK Day marks the birthday of Dr. King. However, the federal holiday is also intended to celebrate the life and legacy of the most important civil rights leader in American history. Although events in 2018 in observing MLK 50 were profoundly significant, this year’s holiday is also important as it marks the 25th anniversary of the MLK Day of Service, a day of volunteer service across the country. See where the best places are to honor the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., whether it’s this weekend, on Monday the holiday, or in the future.
Two Lincoln Memorial Circle NW
Washington, DC 20002
Hours: The Lincoln Memorial is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Park rangers are on duty daily from 9:30 a.m. to 11: 30 p.m.
The steps of the Lincoln Memorial will be especially popular over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. That’s because people will be able to relive the moment where Dr. King gave one of his most enduring speeches, forever known as the “I Have a Dream” speech. Held on August 28, 1963, Dr. King spoke to an estimated crowd of 250,000 after the conclusion of the landmark March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The “I Have A Dream” speech was the top ranked speech of the 20 century and the event contributed towards the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. The event also helped Dr. King earn the Nobel Prize in 1964. The nearby Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial immortalizes Dr. King and an important part of this speech – “out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope”.
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial
1964 Independence Ave. SW
Washington, DC 20024
Hours: The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Park rangers are on duty daily from 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is a stunning granite sculpture creating by Chinese artist Lei Yixin. Located a half mile from the Lincoln Memorial in West Potomac Park, the Memorial’s centerpiece is a 30-foot tall sculpture of Dr. King emerging from two other granite structures behind it. The three sculptures represents “out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope” and is inscribed on both sides of the centerpiece. The sculptures is situated on four acres and overlooks the Great Tidal Basin. The site also includes 182 cherry blossom trees, which encircles the memorial and a bookstore nearby.
Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park
450 Auburn Ave. NE
Atlanta, GA 30312
Hours: Visitor Center, Ebenezer Baptist Church and Freedom Hall are open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. December 25. Dr. King’s birth home is open for ranger-led tours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Fire Station No. 6 is also open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. All facilities are closed on January 1, Thanksgiving Day and December 25.
Fee: There is no admission fee.
The Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park is expected to draw enormous crowds over the MLK Jr. holiday. Encompassing 35 acres, the park is home to a number of historic structures, including Dr. King’s childhood home, Ebenezer Baptist Church and his and wife Coretta’s final resting place. Located in the Sweet Auburn Historic District east of downtown Atlanta, the park also features the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, International Civil Rights Walk of Fame and Prince Hall Masonic Temple. Encircled by a reflecting pool, the tomb of Dr. King and Coretta Scott King is one of the most visited sites in Georgia’s capital city.
National Civil Rights Museum
450 Mulberry St.
Memphis, TN 38103
Hours: 9 am to 5 p.m. except closed Tuesdays. Open until 6 p.m. on January 20
Fees: Adults $17, Seniors and Students w/ID $15, Children Ages 5-17 $14, Children 4 and under are free. Active U.S. military members are free. On MLK Day 2020, the museum has free admission.
In observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the National Civil Rights Museum will be offering free admission on Monday, January 20. Opened in 1991, the National Civil Rights Museum is a collection of museums and historic buildings. This includes the former Lorraine Motel, the site of Dr. King’s tragic assassination outside his Room 306 on April 4, 1968. A Smithsonian Affiliate Museum since 2016, the National Civil Rights Museum also features several historical artifacts and replicas in its permanent collection. Among the most prominent are the preserved Rooms 307 and 307 and replicas of the 1960 Student Sit-Ins and the Rosa Parks bus.
Although admission is free on January 20, visitors who donated canned goods to the King Day Food Drive will receive a $2 coupon off a future museum visit this year. The museum is also hosting a blood drive where donors can receive express entry and museum guest passes for another visit this year.
Selma To Montgomery National Historic Trail
7318 US Highway 80
Hayneville, AL 36040
Lowndes Interpretive Center Hours: Monday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Selma Interpretive Center Hours: Monday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Fees: There are no admission fees along the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail
Extending 54 miles, the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail commemorates the protest marches in 1965. Among these marches was the horrific “Bloody Sunday” event on March 7, 1965, which resulted in beatings by Alabama State Troopers and later broadcast on national television. After Bloody Sunday, President Lyndon Johnson issued a statement condemning the cruel treatment of African Americans and eventually helped lead the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Enacted August 6, 1965, the Voting Rights Act enforces the voting rights set forth by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments and prohibits racial discrimination in voting. A large crowd is expected on January 20 to visit the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the setting for “Bloody Sunday”.
Visitors may also wish to visit the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute in Selma, in addition to historic sites in Montgomery. Throughout the holiday weekend and on Monday, Montgomery will host several events, including a Martin Luther King Jr. Citywide Celebration and MLK Holiday Weekend Parade. Travelers to Montgomery are also encourage to visit sites along the Alabama Civil Rights Trail. This includes the Dexter Parsonage Museum, the former home of Martin Luther King Jr., Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, Civil Rights Memorial Center, Freedom Rides Museum and the Rosa Parks Museum.
About The Author:
Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer who has covered national/international travel for CBS Local and all things San Francisco for CBS San Francisco. His stories have also appeared in the Daily Meal, CBS Radio, Examiner.com and Radio.com, among others. He is a Media Fellow of Stanford University and a member of the Freelance Council of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW).
He is a lifelong resident of Santa Cruz County, California.