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National Civil Rights Museum Prepares for 50th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Death

MEMPHIS, TN--(Marketwired - March 16, 2017) - Beginning April 4, 2017, the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel will present MLK50: Where Do We Go From Here, in honor of Dr. King's life and legacy. The yearlong commemoration culminates April 4, 2018, the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis on April 4, 1968. The commemoration will reflect on the past, evaluate the present, and propose solutions for the future.

"Where Do We Go From Here" was the title of Dr. King's final book as well as the title of the speech he delivered August 16, 1967 at the 10th anniversary of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The Museum will not simply recount the history, but will link the issues Dr. King was most concerned about during the last years of his life -- poverty, fair wages, affordable and safe housing, quality education, justice and peace -- as the method to achieve positive social change.

Each year the Museum commemorates the tragic event that occurred on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel at 6:01pm. This year the commemorative ceremony from the balcony will not only include keynote speakers, special presentations, the laying of the wreath and a moment of silence at 6:01pm, but also guests will be invited to sign a pledge for peace and resolve to take action on the societal issues that Dr. King identified in his final narrative.

"In his last years, Dr. King was very clear about the work that was yet to be done," said Terri Lee Freeman, National Civil Rights Museum president. "We want to encourage that we collectively meet his challenge and set the path forward for positive social change."

There are committees working in tandem with the Museum on commemorative activities. The National Clergy Leadership Team is chaired by Rev. Dr. Alvin O'Neal Jackson, with co-chairs Rev. Dr. James Forbes and Rev. Dr. William Barber. Clergy will explore the deep connections between shared religious faith traditions and the moral values of justice, fairness and the elimination of poverty, racism and extreme militarism.

The Scholars Committee is chaired by Dr. Hasan Jeffries of The Ohio State University. The scholars will focus on the symposium topics and panels, and release a publication that takes a 21st century look at the topics identified in Dr. King's narrative.

Key elements and outcomes for the yearlong commemoration include:

  • PLEDGE FOR PEACE & ACTION - at the 6:01 Commemoration on April 4, 2017, guests will be asked to sign a pledge for peace and action to achieve the things Dr. King identified in his final narrative.
  • MLK50 SYLLABUS - the scholars committee will develop curriculum and instructional resources for educators to teach Dr. King's principles in the classroom.
  • TEACH-INS - the clergy committee will institute interfaith teach-ins that focus on social justice ministry and organizing with churches around the country to create and sustain a movement toward the moral center with which Dr. King gave his life.
  • DIGITAL PLATFORM - website and online community to track the conversation around Dr. King's legacy. Includes details on MLK50 signature events and related activities.
  • 50 YEARS 50 VOICES - a blog and publication featuring writings from scholars around the world on topics central to Dr. King's work.
  • EXHIBIT - showcasing the remarkable legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

MLK50 Website

Throughout the commemorative year, a special website (MLK50.civilrightsmuseum.org) will serve as the official portal for storytelling, engagement, a master calendar and updates on the MLK50 initiatives around the country with archival photos, video, blog posts, social interactivity and a journalism series on economic justice. Visitors to the site will be able to share their stories and thoughts about Dr. King's legacy and ideas for positive social change.

The website is designed to promote intergenerational dialogue, collaboration and action as the movement for civil rights continues. In addition to a comprehensive listing of MLK50 signature and community events, the site provides a history of the Civil Rights Movement in America and context for Dr. King's work in six keys areas: poverty, fair wages, affordable and safe housing, quality education, justice and peace.

Freeman views the MLK50 website as part of a broader national discussion on the future of social activism. "As we honor Dr. King's legacy, we do not want to stop with only acknowledgement and remembrance of prior struggles. We want to reflect on the past, evaluate the present, propose solutions for the future, and encourage everyone to join the conversation."

About the National Civil Rights Museum

The NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM, located at the historic Lorraine Motel where civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, gives a comprehensive overview of the American Civil Rights Movement from 1619 to the present. Since the Museum opened in 1991, millions of visitors from around the world have come, including more than 80,000 students annually. Serving as the new public square, the Museum is steadfast in its mission to chronicle the American civil rights movement, examine today's global civil and human rights issues, provoke thoughtful debate and serve as a catalyst for positive social change.

A Smithsonian Affiliate and an internationally acclaimed cultural institution, the Museum was recognized as TripAdvisor Travelers' Choice Top 5% U.S. Museum, USA Today's Top 10 Best American Iconic Attractions; Top 10 Best Historical Spots in the U.S. by TLC's Family Travel; Must See by the Age of 15 by Budget Travel and Kids; Top 10, American Treasures by USA Today; and Best Memphis Attraction by The Commercial Appeal and the Memphis Business Journal.

About Smithsonian Affiliations

Established in 1996, Smithsonian Affiliations is a national outreach program that develops long-term collaborative partnerships with museums and educational and cultural organizations to enrich communities with Smithsonian resources. The long-term goal of Smithsonian Affiliations is to facilitate a two-way relationship among the Affiliate organizations and the Smithsonian Institution to increase discovery and inspire lifelong learning in communities across America. More information about the Smithsonian Affiliations program and Affiliate activity is available at www.affiliations.si.edu.

- civilrightsmuseum.org -