National Civil Rights Museum to Host Virtual Commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Remembering MLK: The Man. The Movement. The Moment.

The National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel will present a virtual commemoration in honor of Dr. King’s life and legacy on April 4, the 53rd anniversary of his death. Due to the pandemic, this is the museum’s second virtual commemoration. “Remembering MLK: The Man. The Movement. The Moment.” airs at 5:00pm Central Sunday, April 4, on the museum’s website and Livestream platforms.

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. He has set an example in affirming religious diversity and freedom both on campus and throughout the community.


“April 4th is a time for us to reflect on the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” said Dr. Noelle Trent, the museum’s Director of Interpretation, Collections and Education. “This year’s commemoration is an opportunity to reflect not only on the legacy of Dr. King, but also on how each of us has been impacted by the last year.”

The museum’s tour guides will perform the poem “Martin Luther King, Jr.” by Gwendolyn Brooks. Musical performances by vocalists Karen Brown and Chris Barnes are slated during the commemoration and concludes with “Precious Lord,” Dr. King’s favorite gospel hymn, rendered by the vocal ensemble Adagio. 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.

At 2:00pm on April 4, 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 artwork that will inspire people to help build our beloved community.

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 communities, 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.”

Due to the Easter holiday, the museum is closed on Sunday, April 4, but guests are always welcome in the balcony courtyard to pay tribute. Registration to view the virtual commemoration is highly recommended. Moderated comments can also be shared during the virtual broadcast on April 4. For more information, visit

Connie Dyson, National Civil Rights Museum

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