Events, history to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day

A man stands on a stage
Martin Luther King Jr. waves to supporters in Washington, D.C., in 1963.
AFP | Getty Images 1963.

Whether you want to celebrate at an event or by revisiting some of his famous speeches, there are plenty of ways to honor Martin Luther King Jr. on his namesake holiday. Here’s a rundown:

Events across the state

  • The state’s official celebration is at the Ordway in St. Paul on Monday at 10 a.m. The keynote is Yara Shahidi, an actor known for her role in “grown-ish.” More details at

  • Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder speaks at a breakfast to benefit the United Negro College Fund at The Armory in Minneapolis at 7 a.m. Monday.

  • The Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder — the state’s oldest black-owned newspaper — has a comprehensive list of MLK Day events happening over the weekend and on Monday.

Learn more about King and the Civil Rights movement

Half a century after his assassination, King remains one of the most vivid symbols of hope for racial unity in America. But that's not the way he was viewed in the last year of his life.

The Million Man March of 1995 is recreated through the conversation between a young woman and her father, who attended it.

He talks about how the event changed his life, and she recalls what it meant to see a poster of the march hanging on the wall of her father's den since she was a girl.

Here's a timeline from Historically Black providing a scope of the civil rights struggle from the 1600s to the present day.

From the MPR News archives

  • Jan. 20, 1997: Ambassador Andrew Young says King "did everything he could to be an ordinary person but became a man of destiny."

  • Jan. 15, 2001: In honor of Martin Luther King Day, U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. offers reflections on King's "I Have A Dream" speech.

  • Jan. 2, 2003: Voices of Minnesota: Chuck McDew is a founder and first chairman of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC, and Willie Mae Wilson was one of thousands who marched with SNCC to end segregation in southern cities.

  • May 18, 2010: Minnesota Public Radio's Stephen Smith interviews best-selling author Hampton Sides about his new book, "Hellhound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin."

  • Jan. 17, 2011: Families in the Hawthorne neighborhood of north Minneapolis got a chance to mark King's birthday in a 21st century fashion — with technology.

  • Jan. 17, 2015: King made several visits to Minnesota during his lifetime. His last came in 1967, a year before he was assassinated.

  • Aug. 27, 2015: 18 historic images from the 1963 March on Washington: The march featured King's iconic "I Have a Dream" speech in front of an estimated 250,000.

Hear a collection of MLK's speeches

  • Address to the first Montgomery Improvement Association, Dec. 5, 1955

This speech follows the date that Rosa Parks was arrested, the event that catalyzed the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

And you know, my friends, there comes a time when people get tired of being trampled over by the iron feet of oppression. There comes a time, my friends, when people get tired of being plunged across the abyss of humiliation, where they experience the bleakness of nagging despair. There comes a time when people get tired of being pushed out of the glittering sunlight of life's July and left standing amid the piercing chill of an alpine November. There comes a time.

We are here, we are here this evening because we're tired now. And I want to say that we are not here advocating violence. We have never done that. I want it to be known throughout Montgomery and throughout this nation that we are Christian people. We believe in the Christian religion. We believe in the teachings of Jesus. The only weapon that we have in our hands this evening is the weapon of protest.

  • 1962 speech in New York City

This speech, held at the Park-Sheraton Hotel to New York's Civil War Centennial Commission, speaks about the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.

  • I Have a Dream, Washington D.C. 1963

This speech, given in front of more than 250,000 people gathered at the Lincoln Memorial, asked that the citizens strive to set aside division and end racism.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.

  • I Have Been to the Mountaintop, April 3, 1968

King's last speech before his death alluded to the threat of violence against his life before. Prior to the speech, King had almost lost his life from a stabbing in 1958, and days before his speech his flight to Memphis was delayed so security could check the plane for explosives. But his death the following day leaves some of his words to appear prophetic.

Well, I don't know what will happen now; we've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter to with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life-longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over, and I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. And so I'm happy tonight; I'm not worried about anything; I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

Portions of this article are republished from a 2018 MPR News article.

Before you go...

MPR News is dedicated to bringing you clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives when we need it most. We rely on your help to do this. Your donation has the power to keep MPR News strong and accessible to all during this crisis and beyond.