Two years after the first African-American president of the United States moved into the White House, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial was finally erected in Washington, D.C.
Since that time, racial tensions have grown more fraught, fueled by a number of police shootings of unarmed black men and acts of racially motivated violence like the mass killing at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., in 2015.
Days before one of the most polarizing presidents is set to be sworn into office, America will celebrate what would have been the 88th birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. by honoring his legacy, reflecting on how his philosophies can be applied to the social injustices that persist today and serving their communities.
In Atlanta, the birthplace of the civil rights activist, there are numerous ways to acknowledge the federal holiday. Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King once served as co-pastor, will once again memorialize its most famous member during an annual celebration on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Elsewhere, Atlanta museums will host family-friendly educational programs, and counties throughout metro Atlanta will host local parades and programs.
Here are a few of the King-related events that will be held on or around Jan. 16:
“The Mountaintop” is a fictional production that reimagines King’s conversation with a maid at the Lorraine Motel on the eve of his death in 1968. The Aurora Theatre production features language that might be inappropriate for a young audience.
Head to the theater on at 10 a.m. Feb. 1 to see the production for as low as $16. Tickets are regularly $20-$55.
Jan. 12-Feb. 12. 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; 2:30 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays. $20-55. Aurora Theatre, 128 E. Pike St., Lawrenceville. Auroratheatre.com.
Center for Civil and Human Rights Museum
The Center for Civil and Human Rights Museum will continue its partnership with Morehouse College through the unveiling of “Morehouse College and the Making of a Man,” the newest addition to the Morehouse College Martin Luther King Jr. Collection at the museum.
A program commemorating the new collection will be held on Jan. 13. The president of Morehouse College, professor of African American Studies and chairman of Fulton County will explore King’s commitment to “college, cloth and community.”
6-8:30 p.m. Jan. 13. Free. Center for Civil and Human Rights, 100 Ivan Allen Jr. Blvd, Atlanta. Civilandhumanrights.org.
DeKalb County celebration
A few days before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, DeKalb County will host its 33rd annual event dedicated to the activist. “King’s Legacy of Peace With Justice for Our World” will feature the president of the Georgia NAACP and minister, Francys Johnson, as the keynote speaker.
10 a.m. Jan. 13. Free. Maloof Auditorium, 1300 Commerce Drive, Decatur. Naacpga.org.
‘Salute to Greatness’
The King Center’s annual “Salute to Greatness” gala will once again recognize extraordinary national and international people and organizations who have “made notable strides toward improving the quality of life for all,” reads a message from Bernice King, one of King’s children.
Honorees will include civil rights activist the Rev. Joseph E. Lowery and Costco.
The reception and dinner will be held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Jan. 14. The dress code for the event is “black tie optional.”
6 p.m. Jan. 14. Individual tickets begin at $250. Hyatt Regency Atlanta, 265 Peachtree St., Atlanta. Thekingcenter.org.
High Museum celebration
A current exhibit at the High Museum revisits the life and legacy of King through five photos. The images show the activist as he fought for civil rights and spent time with his family. The exhibit is on display through March 12.
The museum will host a series of kid-friendly events on Jan. 15 to honor King, too.
High Museum of Art teaching artists will lead an art-making workshop from 1-4 p.m., and three story times will explore books that focus on King and the civil rights movement at 1:30, 2:30 and 3:30 p.m.
These events are included in admission to the museum.
If you’re looking for a free alternative, a screening of “Mighty Times: The Children’s March” will take place at 2 p.m. The 40-minute documentary, produced by Teaching Tolerance alongside HBO, tells the story of young people who participated in the civil rights movement in Birmingham, Ala.
Noon-5 p.m. Jan. 15. $14.50 (ages 6 and older), free (ages 5 and younger). High Museum of Art, 1280 Peachtree St., Atlanta. High.org.
Visit any National Park Service site on Martin Luther King Jr. Day for free.
If you’re looking for a National Park site where you can learn more about the legacy of King, the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site in downtown Atlanta features the home, church and grave of the civil rights activist.
While tourists can view the outside of King’s home, the inside has been closed since August. Officials with the National Park Service cited “structural damage” for the closing.
9 a.m.-5 p.m. Jan. 16. Free. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, 450 Auburn Ave., Atlanta. nps.gov.
Ebenezer Baptist Church Commemorative Service
The commemorative service at Ebenezer Baptist Church on Jan. 16 remains a MLK Day staple. The service, designed to honor the life, work and legacy of King, will feature a keynote address from Father Michael Pfleger and a tribute from Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Darlene McCoy, minister Micah Stampley, the Craig Lewis Band, Freddie and Teddie and the Korean Christian Children’s Choir are among the performers who will participate in the program.
10 a.m.-1 p.m. Jan. 16. Free. Ebenezer Baptist Church, 101 Jackson St., Atlanta. nps.gov.
Atlanta History Center
Entry into the Atlanta History Center and Margaret Mitchell House is free on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Visit Atlanta History Center and tour its many exhibits, including “Gatheround: Stories of Atlanta,” before featured speaker and author of “Go South to Freedom” Frye Gaillard talks about his book, which is geared toward middle-school kids, at 3 p.m. The event will also include a book signing.
10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Jan. 16. Free. Atlanta History Center, 130 W. Paces Ferry Road N.W., Atlanta. Atlantahistorycenter.com.
Henry County Parade/Peace March
The Henry County chapter of the NAACP will host its annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Parade/Peace March on Jan. 16. Anyone can participate in the parade, which begins at 10 a.m.
Register at henrycountyganaacp.com and line up at 9 a.m. at the Henry County Performing Arts Center.
Grand marshals Darius Pattillo, Henry County district attorney, and Dee Clemmons, Henry County District 2 commissioner, will lead the parade. Last year, more than 65 groups registered to participate.
Immediately following the parade, Pastor T.J. McBride will serve as the speaker during a celebratory program at the Henry County Performing Arts Center.
10 a.m. Jan. 16. Free. Henry County Performing Arts Center, 37 Lemon St., McDonough. Henrycountyganaacp.com.
Cobb County program
The Cobb County branch of the NAACP will host an event to honor the legacy of King at Turner Chapel AME Church on Jan. 16.
WSB-TV anchor Fred Blankenship will serve as the emcee for the event. He will also present two Cobb County residents with the “living the dream award.”
The award is given to a man and a woman who have contributed to the Cobb County community each year.
10 a.m. Jan. 16. Free. Tuner Chapel AME Church, 492 N. Marietta Parkway, Marietta. Cobbnaacp.org.
Setting the Agenda for the Next Civil Rights Movement
CNN political analyst Bakari Sellers will reflect on King’s legacy while pondering what the civil rights activist would think of the world we live in today. What would King do regarding the social justice issues that still persist today?
Georgia Tech students and faculty will participate in this event, but it is also open to the public.
3 p.m. Jan. 11. Free. Student Center Ballroom, 350 Ferst Drive, Atlanta. Diversity.gatech.edu.