365 Things To Do In Memphis #16: Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day In Memphis

365 Things to Do in Memphis #16: Observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day

365 Things to Do in Memphis #16

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is on Monday, January 16th, 2023. It's a chance to reflect, honor, and celebrate Dr. King's legacy on the date of his birthday. Assignment #16 on our 365 Things To Do In Memphis list is to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in Memphis.

Check out ways to celebrate Black History year round and support Black-owned businesses


Here are a few ways to celebrate MLK Day in Memphis.


1. Volunteer your time.  

Memphis organizations coordinate volunteer efforts so the community can get involved for Martin Luther King Day each year. In 2023, Volunteer Memphis will MLK Days of Service, with dozens of projects going on all weekend.

Our pals at Volunteer Odyssey have hand-picked a few volunteer ideas for this month's Ways To Give Back To Memphis.

2. Visit The National Civil Rights Museum + King Day Celebration

The NCRM is perhaps the most important attraction in Memphis. In terms of history and the city's role in the worldwide struggle for civil rights, it's a must-visit for visitors and locals alike. After its renovation and reopening in 2014, the NCRM does an even better job of telling that story with immersive, multimedia, and interactive exhibits that focus on the people behind a movement that continues today.

The museum is located at the Lorraine Motel in the South Main neighborhood of downtown Memphis. It is free to observe the plaza and the balcony where Dr. King was standing when he was killed. For the King Day celebration, the NCRM allows free entry from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

The Museum will also accept donations of money and food for the Mid-South Food Bank and Vitalant will host a blood drive on site, too. If you are able to give blood, you will be given an admission pass valid any day on 2023.

photo of Lorraine Motel sign

 Photo by Brand USA.

3. Stop by the Mason Temple (930 Mason Street)

This is where Dr. King delivered the "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech on the night before his assassination. You can read the speech or listen to a recording of Dr. King giving the speech here. For MLK Day in Memphis, make a stop to look at the building. It is currently the world headquarters for the Church of God In Christ.

I AM A MAN Plaza at Clayborn Temple. Photo by Logan Young.

4. Visit The I AM A MAN Plaza at Clayborn Temple (280 Hernando Street)

The "I AM A MAN" plaza, which is adjacent to Clayborn Temple across the street from FedExForum. If you haven't been since it was installed in 2018, I encourage you to take a quiet moment and visit. It honors the people of the 1968 Sanitation Workers Strike, the people who Dr. King traveled to Memphis to support before his assassination. Read a bit more here.

5. Take a Quick Visit MLK Reflection Park (2nd and MLK Ave.)

Opened as a part of MLK50 (the 50th anniversary of Dr. King's assassination in 2018) this park in downtown Memphis is home to the "I Have Been To The Mountaintop" sculpture, water features, and historical panels. It is only a block or two away from the National Civil Rights Museum and Clayborn Temple.

6. Visit The Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum (826 N. Second St.)

Located at the former Burkle Estate, this antebellum home served as a station on the Underground Railroad in the 1800s. Walk the floors of the home that was a part of this secret system, which aided escaped enslaved people in their journey out of the South long before Emancipation and the Civil Rights Movement.

7. Memphis Grizzlies Game

The NBA will have nine big games on Monday, Jan. 16th and usually have programming to commemorate MLK Day. The Grizzlies will play at FedExForum against the Phoenix Suns.

8. Take a Tour of Possibilities

While you may not be able to take this guided driving tour of the city on MLK Weekend, you should certainly add "A Tour of Possibilities" to your Memphis bucket list. The passionate, entertaining Carolyn Michael Banks aka "Queen" will serve as your guide to several civil rights and African American points of interest around the city.

Everyone is welcome on her tours, where she provides plenty of historic and musical context for each stop and the city in general. Read more.

9. Race 4 Reconciliation 

Inaugural 5K and 1 mile run/walk on January 17th at AutoZone Park starting at noon.  This run/walk is all about positivity and unity.  Proceeds will go toward local organizations committed to literacy tutoring, vocational training and minority leadership development. 

How will you observe and celebrate Martin Luther King Day in Memphis this year? What does the holiday mean to you? Let me know in the comments.

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Kinsey P
Wow I did not realize the Civil rights museum was free on MLK day! That’s incredible. What a privilege for Memphians to have access to such an important museum. I’m so thankful for MLK’s impact on our world.
January 22, 2019 12:42pm
Holly Whitfield
Pretty awesome, isn't it? Did you know that "Tennessee residents with state-issued ID may visit the museum for free on Mondays from 3 p.m. until closing." (Not applicable for tour groups and operators. Not available on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Presidents’ Day, April 4th, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day or Veterans’ Day.)
January 22, 2019 1:30pm
Joe Calhoun

I would like to invite people to include the Withers Collection Museum/Gallery 333 Beale St. Take a walk through history looking to at the hundreds of photos on display including Martin Luther Kings last 12 years, Memphis music and the Memphis Red Sox of the Negro league baseball from Martin Stadium. 
we operate off your donations 

thanks and come stop by and visit 

January 12, 2022 1:23pm