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Commemorating Martin Luther King Jr.: A Month of Educational Events at the NMAAHC

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) celebrates Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and legacy with various educational opportunities throughout January. From in-person activities to online offerings, the museum commemorates King and the holiday surrounding his impact on the world. Beginning Jan. 8, 2024, King’s original “I Have a Dream” speech from the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, on loan from Villanova University, will be on display through March 4, 2024. For digital visitors looking to learn more about King online, a blog post highlighting surprising facts about King’s life is now available at nmaahc.si.edu/5thingsMLK.

Alongside the “I Have a Dream” speech on view are objects associated with King, including a Congressional Gold Medal awarded posthumously to him and Coretta Scott King in 2014, a laundry pail used by King during the march from Selma to Montgomery and 1956 handbill advertising a prayer meeting with King at a Boston church.

On Monday, Jan. 8, 2024, the museum welcomes author Jonathan Eig for a special event to discuss his biography King: A Life in the Oprah Winfrey Theater and streaming online. The event “The People’s Holiday: The Many Dreams of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” Monday, Jan. 15, reinterprets the life and work of King through powerful performances by students from Duke Ellington School of the Arts.

From Jan. 12 to Jan. 15, 2024, the museum’s Sweet Home Café will celebrate the holiday with a special menu featuring a selection of King’s most-liked dishes, including ribs, collard greens and a chocolate bourbon pecan pie. For more details, visit the Sweet Home Café website. Entry to the museum includes access to the café, and special Dine and Shop passes are available for access to the café and museum store only.  

In observance of the holiday, the museum will remain open during its regular operating hours from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Advanced and same-day free timed-entry passes are available online.

January Programming Schedule

“King: A Life” with Author Jonathan Eig

Monday, Jan. 8, 2024; 7 p.m.–8 p.m.

Oprah Winfrey Theater 

The museum hosts Jonathan Eig for a discussion of his newest book, King: A Life, the first major biography in decades about King. Vividly written and exhaustively researched, Eig weaves a revelatory new portrait of the preacher and activist who shook the world and gives an intimate view of King. Michel Martin, host of NPR’s “Morning Edition,” will join Eig in conversation during this event. Signed books will be available courtesy of Smithsonian Enterprises. The program is free; however, registration is required.

The People’s Holiday: The Many Dreams of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Monday, Jan. 15, 2024; 11 a.m.–4 p.m.

The museum’s annual community program, “The People’s Holiday,” will host students from the Duke Ellington School of the Arts performing original work that reimagines and reinterprets the life and work of King. Visitors can make a button inspired by King, share their dreams about him on the community talkback board and make a star to celebrate a group or person who is doing good for their community. They can also celebrate King’s birthday with one of his favorite desserts, chocolate bourbon pecan pie, available for purchase in the Sweet Home Café. This public program is free; however, registration is required.

Martin Luther King Jr. Objects on View

“I Have a Dream Speech”

King’s original “I Have a Dream” speech from the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom is on loan the museum from Villanova University. The case containing the speech has been reinstalled just in time for visitors to view the historic document ahead of this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. It will be on view in the “Defending Freedom, Defining Freedom: The Era of Segregation, 1876–1968” exhibition from Jan. 8 through March 4, 2024.

Photo credit: Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Handbill advertising a prayer meeting with Martin Luther King Jr. 

This printed handbill announces a “Prayer Meeting and Song Fest” with King at the United Methodist Church in Boston on March 23, 1956. The meeting was sponsored by the Sigma Chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and the Interdenominational Ministers’ Alliance of Boston. On view in the museum’s Center for African American Media Arts gallery.

Photo credit: Collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Laundry pail associated with the 1965 Selma to Montgomery March

King used this galvanized aluminum laundry pail during the march from Selma to Montgomery. On view in the museum’s “Defending Freedom, Defining Freedom: The Era of Segregation, 1876–1968” exhibition.

Photo credit: Collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

 

Congressional Gold Medal for Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King 

A Congressional gold medal bestowed upon King and Coretta Scott King.

One side has inscribed text surrounding a depiction King and Coretta Scott King. The text reads: “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King / Act of Congress / 2004 / For Their Service to Humanity.”

The other side features an image of the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change at the top and a wreath along the bottom edge. The engraved text reads: “I suggest that the philosophy and strategy of nonviolence become immediately a subject for study for serious experimentation in every field of human conflict, by no means excluding the relations between nations. This may well be mankind’s last chance to choose between chaos and community.” On view in the museum’s “Defending Freedom, Defining Freedom: The Era of Segregation, 1876–1968” exhibition.

Photo credit: Collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Donation can for Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)

This donation can is made of tin and wrapped in white paper. The paper has a black and white image of King and Ralph David Abernathy and text that reads: [I Gave] above an address. On view in the museum’s “1968 & Beyond” exhibition.

Photo credit: Collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

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