Alabama events mark 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King assassination

Alabama events mark 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King assassination
Martin Luther King Jr. at the Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. (National Archives/Photographer Rowland Sherman)

Several events planned this week in Birmingham and Montgomery will mark the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination and commemorate his sacrifice for human rights.


In Birmingham, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) will host its annual Keeper of the Dream awards banquet Wednesday. This year’s theme is “A Golden Halo Commemoration Fit for a King” and will honor individuals who have continued King’s legacy.

Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple Inc., will receive the Human Rights Award from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)

Alabama native and Apple CEO Tim Cook will accept the SCLC’s Human Rights Award. Other honorees include DeJuana Thompson, creator of Woke Vote; Isabel Rubio, president of the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama; and Robert Dickerson Jr., executive director of Birmingham Business Resource Center.

The banquet takes place at 7 p.m. at the Sheraton Birmingham Ballroom (2101 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd.)

Earlier Wednesday, high school and college students will hear from innovation leaders during a symposium about how they can develop STREAM (Science, Technology, Reading and Writing, Engineering, Art and Math) skills. The private event will take place at Sixth Avenue Baptist Church.

For more information about either event, visit


The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (520 16th St. N) will mark the anniversary with free admission and extended hours from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Among the powerful exhibits at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is the jail cell from which the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” (Frank Couch Photography)

FedEx is sponsoring the day, which includes speakers, a special ceremony and a moment of silence at 6:01 p.m., the time of King’s assassination.

The institute will show a live stream of events at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis starting at 10 a.m.

Later in the day, Jeff Drew, a friend of King, will speak during a ceremony in Kelly Ingram Park at 5 p.m.

For more information, visit


Several events will take place in Montgomery, where King was pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church from 1954 to 1960. King helped organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott of the 1950s and led the Selma to Montgomery voting rights march in 1965.

Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery, 2005. (The George F. Landegger Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)

The Rosa Parks Museum (252 Montgomery St.) will host a “Real Talk on Continuing King’s Legacy” on Tuesday, April 3 at 6 p.m. Admission is free.

Panelists include Wanda Battle from Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, Kathryn Tucker from Troy University’s history department and Sara Wood from the Southern Poverty Law Center.


The National Center for the Study of Civil Rights and African-American Culture at Alabama State University will sponsor an all-day symposium on race and reconciliation Wednesday, April 4 at Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church (303 S Jackson St.).

The symposium will examine King’s life and contributions to civil and human rights.

Vicki L. Crawford, director of the Martin Luther King Jr. collection and associate professor of African-American studies at Morehouse College in Atlanta, will be the keynote speaker.

Registration begins at 8 a.m. The symposium starts at 9 a.m. and includes a luncheon at 12:30 p.m., which is free but space is limited. Luncheon tickets will be available during the morning registration.

For more information, contact Anneshia Hardy at 334-229-8568 or [email protected].


The Alabama Department of Archives and History (624 Washington St.) will present “The Words: Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” on Wednesday, April 4 in its Joseph M. Farley Alabama Power Auditorium.

The Archives has invited nine community members, including high school students, to read excerpts of King’s most famous speeches.

“This event will be a moving memorial to King and a meaningful opportunity for the public to reflect on the significance of his words, how they shaped history, and what they mean for the world today,” said Steve Murray, ADAH director.

The program begins at noon and is free. For more information, call (334) 353-3312 or visit


King was shot while standing on a balcony outside his second-floor room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis on April 4, 1968. He was 39 years old.

King was in Memphis to support a sanitation workers’ strike and on his way to dinner when a bullet struck him. He was pronounced dead after his arrival at a Memphis hospital.

News of King’s assassination prompted outbreaks of racial violence, resulting in more than 40 deaths nationwide and property damage in more than 100 American cities.

James Earl Ray, a 40-year-old escaped fugitive, later confessed to the crime and was sentenced to a 99-year prison term. Ray died in prison in 1998.

Today, King’s philosophy of nonviolence stands as one of the most successful answers to the world’s ongoing struggle against oppression and injustice.

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