Things to Do for Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Atlanta

Atlanta's MLK Day and civil rights celebrations are in full swing throughout January.
The Freedom Parkway Martin Luther King Jr. installation is a source of inspiration. (Benjamin Pete, @be_atlanta)
Tom Houck (blue vest) was Dr. King's driver, and he leads the The Atlanta Civil Rights Tours.

Atlanta is the heart of the civil rights movement (with plenty of things to do to celebrate) and the ATL commemorates the life and works of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in a variety of ways. Of course, a visit to his grave site at the the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site is always an important way to pay homage to both Dr. King and the movement.

Jan. 12

  • MLK Human Rights Prayer Breakfast
    Hyatt Regency Atlanta
    8:30 -- 10:30 a.m.

    Hosted by the Atlanta-North Georgia Labor Council, this is the 14th annual breakfast that honors Dr. King and workers. To purchase tickets:

  • Emory University School of Law Lecture
    Emory University
    Tull Auditorium
    6:30 p.m.

    Cornell William Brooks, president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), will be the guest speaker. A reception will follow the lecture.

Jan. 13

  • Salute to Greatness Awards Gala
    Hyatt Regency Hotel
    Reception: 6 p.m.; Dinner 7 p.m.
    $250 individual tickets

    The annual Salute to Greatness honors those who are honoring the life and works of Dr. King and Coretta Scott King. Among the honorees are Chobani, Sen. Cory Booker, Alana Simmons, Carmen Yulin Cruz, Dr. Robert L. Green and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

Jan. 15

  • MLK Day March & Rally
    Corner of Peachtree and Ellis streets
    Assembly: 1:15 p.m.; March: 1:45 p.m.

    The lineup occurs at Peachtree and Baker streets and will include representatives from labor unions, youth groups, business people, families and churches, LBGT community, civil groups, colleges, fraternities and sororities. The march begins at the King Center.

    The annual rally will be held in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Non-Violent Social Change at the corner of Auburn and Jackson avenues.

  • MLK Day for Kids
    Children’s Museum of Atlanta
    11 a.m.-- 3:30 p.m.

    The museum will have several special programs for children, including a readers’ theater that will highlight key leaders of the movement, including many who marched with Dr. King. Children can dress up in clothes fro the '60s and hear about the leaders’ lives and accomplishments (11 a.m., 2 p.m.). At noon there is a “I Have a Dream Program” where Dr. King’s famous speech will be read. A Super Spectacular Science Show will start at 1 p.m., with story time at 3 p.m.. There are other activities scheduled as well.

  • MLK Day Commemorative Service
    Ebenezer Baptist Church
    10 a.m.

    This service, which includes a gospel artist and keynote speaker, is part of Georgia Tech’s MLK Celebration, and it is open to the public.

  • MLK Museum Day
    Atlanta History Center
    10 a.m. -- 5:30 p.m.

    Enjoy a complimentary day at the Atlanta History Center and the Margaret Mitchell House in honor of Dr. King. Programs feature the contributions of African-Americans in Atlanta and will include a film screening and conversation about “The Trek to the River’s Edge” with the filmmaker and student leaders of the Atlanta Student Movement at 1 and 3 p.m.

  • MLK 5K Drum Run
    Piedmont Park 
    Race lineup 8:45 a.m.
    Registration: $5

    The music — with more than 250 drummers — will start at 8 a.m. as drummers will keep the beat for runners and watchers. The race is a fund-raiser for area schools, churches, businesses and community organizations. This is a USATF-certified 5K race course and a Peachtree Road Race qualifier.

  • Free National Park Day
    On four days in 2018, the National Park Service will waive admission fees. This includes Martin Luther King Jr. day. This special  also includes free entrance to the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.

  • Bayard Rustin/Audre Lorde Breakfast
    The Loudermilk Center

    The breakfast will focus on the multiple impacts of racism and ageism and will also honor the late Joan Garner and Antron-Reshaud Olukayode. The Youth People’s Space will include activities for children and teens. Following the breakfast, participants will assemble at the Martin Luther King Jr. March and Rally at 1:15 p.m.

Jan. 16

  • Celebration in Search of an Assumption: The Artist’s Role in Wartime
    Center for Civil and Human Rights

    In 2016 a  group of high school students, along with playwright Pearl Cleage,  wrote a play, and the center will present a re-imagined version of it. In addition, there will be screenings of Ava DuVernay’s 2014 movie, "Selma" at 12:30 and 3 p.m.

Jan. 25

  • Morehouse College
    Bank of America Auditorium
    Walter E. Massey Leadership Center
    5:30 -- 7:30 p.m.

    Panelists including Martin Luther King III, Ambassador Andrew Young, Stacey Abrams and Dr. Raphael Warnock will discuss “Where Do We Go From Here?” an inter-generational conversation about Dr. King and his legacy.

Other Activities:

Jan. 6, 13, 20, 27

  • Civil Rights Tours
    The Civil Rights Tours takes guests to the places where history was made. The tour starts at the grave of Dr. King and travels through the famous (and not so famous) spots that were important to the movement and its leaders. The tour is the only tour that visits the site of the Atlanta Student Movement Rush Memorial Church, the graves of Daddy King and John Wesley Hobbs.  Check tour dates as more may be added for the holiday. The tour is headed by Tom Houck, who once served as Dr. King’s personal chauffeur.

Journalist Mary Welch writes business and lifestyle stories for local and national publications.