The Martin Luther King Jr. Day federal holiday marks the birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was born on Jan. 15, 1929. Dr. King’s birthday was finally approved as a federal holiday in 1983. Here he speaks in Washington, D.C. in 1963. (Photo: Warren K. Leffler/ Courtesy of the Library of Congress)

Memphis’ unique connection to the end of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life makes the annual celebration of his birth on the MLK Day federal holiday a particularly healing experience.

King would have been 94 this year. His death in Memphis came 55 years ago on April 4th.

The following images from the archives of The New Tri-State Defender reflect aspects of the Memphis celebrations of Dr. King’s birth, life and legacy over the last 10 years.


2013

Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins greets NFL Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown, who along with NBA greats Patrick Ewing and Elgin Baylor, were recipients of the Eighth Annual National Civil Rights Sports Legacy Awards. (Photo: Warren Roseborough/The New Tri-State Defender Archives)

2014

Your honor ...
Your honor … Dr. Willie W. Herenton, no stranger to the limelight himself, kneels. good-naturedly before the Rev. Samuel “Billy” Kyles, who received a special tribute during the 45th Annual Celebration of The Life & Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at Kyle’s Monumental Baptist Church. (Photo: Tyrone P. Easley/The New Tri-State Defender Archives)

2015

Elmore Nickleberry, a long-serving member of the City of Memphis Sanitation Department, was on the job when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came to Memphis in support of striking sanitation workers in 1968. He was among those saluted at the City of Memphis’ Be the Dream MLK observance at Mason Temple. (Photo: Tyrone P. Easley/The New Tri-State Defender Archives)

2016

The Eternal Peace Baptist Church Male Choir was among the groups that performed during the Citizens for Better Service’s 23rd Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Award Program. (Photo: Tyrone P. Easley/The New Tri-State Defender)

2017

Memphis Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale and fan-favorite Tony Allen pause for prayer at the Memphis Union Mission, where the team served dozens of meals to the homeless on MLK Jr. Day. (Photo: Lee Eric Smith/The New Tri-State Defender)

2018

A day to be in the streets… The 33rd Annual Dr. Martin Luther King National Parade started at Main St. and A.W. Willis and wound through a portion of downtown, pausing on Beale St. before culminating at the National Civil Rights Museum. (Photo: Johnathan Martin/The New Tri-State Defender Archives)

2019

Dr. King viewed through ‘ninetysomething’ lenses … In the 51st year since Dr. King’s assassination here in Memphis and on the celebration of his 90th birthday, The New Tri-State Defender sought snippet reflections about his impact from five Memphians who have crossed the 90 thresholds or on the doorstep. From left to right: Barbara Cooper, 89; the Rev. Dr. James L Netters, 92; Dr. Erma Clanton, 95; Norvelle Sanders, 88; and Opal Carpenter Mayfield, 90. (Photo of Dr. King: Bob Fitch photography archive, © Stanford University Libraries)

2020

Dr. King’s radical economic agenda was the topic as the 100 Black Men of Memphis convened an MLK Day gathering at the Events Center in Midtown. Three panelists – Dr. Earle J. Fisher, founder of Upthevote901 and Abyssinian Baptist Church pastor, Rhodes professor Dr. Charles W. McKinney, and University of Memphis researcher Dr. Elena Delavega participated in the discussion guided by Wendi C. Thomas, editor of the the MLK50 Journalism project. The discussion comes as the 100 Black Men of Memphis pursues an enhanced focus on economic development within the African-American community. (Photos: Johnathan Martin/The New Tri-State Defender Archives)

2021

Deborah Manning Thomas, a fixture at local observations of Dr. King’s legacy, shared her vocal prowess at the celebration at Monumental Baptist Church. (Photo: Tyrone P. Easley/The New Tri-State Defender)

2022

The LeMoyne-Owen College Memphis Alumni Association held its 31st annual Martin Luther King Jr. birthday observance on campus at the Little Theatre. (Photo: Tyrone P. Easley/The New Tri-State Defender)