Nashville celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

The 31st Annual IMF Martin Luther King Jr. Day march celebrates the life, legacy and impact of Dr. King and Nashville’s role in the Civil Rights movement.

Created to honor the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., MLK Day is celebrated on the 3rd Monday in January. Nashville hosts many events in honor of Dr. King and his message of love and civil and human rights.  Listed here are just a few.

State representative to keynote MLK observance at MTSU

State Representative Harold M. Love, Jr.

Middle Tennessee State University will observe the 25th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, with a special evening ceremony and traditional candlelight vigil will be held in honor of the slain civil rights leader.

The special event, which is free and open to the public, will begin at 6 pm, Monday, Jan. 20, in the Student Union Ballroom

State Rep. Harold Love, Jr. will deliver the keynote address at Monday’s ceremony. Love represents Tennessee House District 58, which encompasses a part of north central Metro Nashville and Davidson County. He is an assistant leader of the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus and a member of the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations.

The ceremony will include a gospel choir performance, a tribute to King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, and an appreciation of MLK’s legacy through historically Black colleges and universities.

After the ceremony, the candlelight vigil will commence with a musical performance, a children’s tribute to MLK and a recitation of MTSU’s True Blue Pledge.

Annual MLK Breakfast to feature Cyntoia Brown-Long, Judge Richard Dinkins

Judge Richard Dinkins

More than 800 civic and community leaders will gather on Monday, January 20, to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the 19th annual MLK Breakfast, hosted by Bone McAllester Norton PLLC law firm. The centerpiece of this year’s event will be a conversation between Judge Richard Dinkins and Cyntoia Brown-Long about the legacy of Dr. King and the meaning of his legacy for modern times.

Dinkins is a long-time civil rights advocate and current Tennessee State Court of Appeals Judge. Brown-Long is an author, speaker and advocate for criminal justice reform and victims of sex trafficking. Her life sentence was commuted by former Gov. Bill Haslam last year and she was released from prison in August 2019. Her legal team was led by Bone McAllester Norton.

Cyntoia Brown-Long

In addition to Judge Dinkins and Cyntoia Brown-Long, Ernest ‘Rip’ Patton (one of the original 1961 Freedom Riders) and members of The Temple Church Choir will be part of the program.

Bone McAllester Norton PLLC has hosted the annual MLK Day Fellowship Breakfast since 2001 as a way to bring the community together and shine the spotlight on the importance of Dr. King’s message around social justice and equality. The event has become a centerpiece in Nashville’s annual remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King.


 Scarritt Bennett Center celebrates legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with Vespers & All That Jazz

The Scarritt Bennett Center will celebrate the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on January 19, from 6:30-7:30 in their Wightman Chapel.  This special Vespers & All That Jazz service will include excerpts from Dr. King’s speeches and songs from the Civil Rights Movement.

Vespers & All That Jazz is a worship experience using words and music from a variety of sources to encounter the Sacred. Jazz is a process of making music, music that shapes the service and helps us experience the interruptive Spirit of God in others and ourselves. The style is experiential. Open minds, open hearts, and open ears are essential. Justice, compassion, peace, and wonder are hoped-for responses.

Nashville IMF host interactive youth summit

On Saturday January 18, at  9 am, the IMF will host a Youth Summit. During this interactive workshop participants will learn about the process for registering to vote in Nashville, as well as discuss voter suppression and how it can affect your vote in 2020. Participants in this workshop will have a hands-on, on-site demonstration of the new voting machine, an opportunity to learn more about the elected positions that will be on the ballot in 2020, and important voting dates in March, August and November 2020. On site voter registration will also be available.

MLK Worship Night

On Sunday, January 19, at 4:30 pm, the Fifteenth Avenue Baptist Church located at  1203 9th Ave N will hold an inter-denomational Worship Night in honor of the King holiday. The guest speaker will be Dr. J Lawrence Turner of Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church and their choir.

MLK Day Youth Rally, March, and Convocation

The Interdenominational Ministers Fellowship and the Nashville Community invite you to celebrate the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The MLK Day March and Convocation have been organized by the Interdenominational Ministers Fellowship since 1989. Youth rally and march on January 20 starts 8:30 am at Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church followed by the convocation at Tennessee State University Gentry Center.

MLK Service Weekend Donation Drive

Support families in need for the 2020 Martin Luther King Service Weekend during this one-day donation drive. Safe Haven Family Shelter, based in Nashville, accepts in-kind donations of items that can be used in the shelter program or as the family moves into their own housing. Starting Saturday, January 18 from 9 am-2 pm, the Bicentennial Mall will collect much-needed supplies to transport to the shelter. Donations will be accepted in front of the visitor center.

Sit-In, Nashville Lunch Counter, 1960. (photo courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress)

MLK Joint Day of Service

The MLK Joint Day of Service on Saturday will bring together student volunteers from all Nashville-area colleges and universities to continue the dream of Dr. King through service. The theme of this year’s day of service is ‘Sit-Ins at 60: Students. Action. Justice,’ and will commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Nashville lunch counter sit-ins and the bravery demonstrated by college students for the cause of racial equity and justice.

The Nashville sit-ins lasted almost three months and were among the earliest non-violent, direct-action campaigns in the 1960s to end racial segregation in the South. Led by the Nashville Student Movement and Nashville Christian Leadership Council, they were the first campaigns to desegregate lunch counters in Nashville, Tennessee. Diane Nash and John Lewis, who were both students at Fisk University, emerged as the major leaders of the local movement.

The 2020 Day of Service is organized collaboratively by Belmont University, Fisk University, Lipscomb University, Meharry Medical College, Nashville State Community College, Tennessee State College, Trevecca Nazarene University and Vanderbilt University.

Tentative Timeline:

  • Registration and Lunch: 10-11:15 am.
  • Presentation: 11:30 am-12:15 pm.
  • Service: 12:30-3:30 pm.
  • Reflection and Closing: 4-4:30 pm.

Vanderbilt MLK Commemorative Series, Black Cultural Center

The 2020 Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Series will begin Friday, Jan. 17, with a kickoff event at the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center from noon to 1:30 pm. The kickoff will include soul food, fellowship, music and remarks from Emmy Award-winning visual artist and community leader James Threalkill, BS, ’79, who painted the Legacy Pioneer Portraits displayed at the Black Cultural Center. The kickoff begins a four-day celebration of King’s life, legacy and impact as part of the university’s annual commemorative series. MLK Day events on Monday, Jan. 20, include Nashville MLK Day March and Convocation, Interactive Teach-in Sessions, and MLK Day Blood Drive at the Ben Schulman Center for Jewish Life.

Let Freedom Sing with Nashville Symphony

For more than 25 years, the Nashville Symphony has hosted this concert honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The orchestra and special guests will perform a mix of spirituals, popular songs, and classical music honoring the triumphs of the civil rights movement on Sunday, January 19 at 7 pm.

Fisk University annual MLK Convocation, 2020

From 10 am to noon on Friday, January 17 at 10 am, Fisk will hold its annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Convocation at the Fisk Memorial Chapel.

Belmont hosts 2020 MLK Celebration

This year’s theme for Belmont University’s MLK celebration is ‘A Call for Unity: Preserving the Dream.’

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Program was established in January of 1997 at Belmont University as a celebration of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Events are held each January as part of the observance of Dr. King’s birthday. Each of these events are open to the Belmont community and to the public and all are welcome and invited to attend. Events each year include a candlelight vigil in commemoration of the Civil Rights Movement, a chapel service, and a campus dialogue on diversity, race and ethnicity.

Lipscomb University annual MLK Dinner

The MLK Dinner on Jan. 21 at 6 pm will focus on progress. A specially selected panel of millennial speakers representing technology, cyber security, entrepreneurship and health care will visit our campus to help us celebrate the occasion. They will reflect on their professions, challenges, visions and dreams for the future of our nation and the significant roles they have in it as they prepare to inherit it.

Civil Rights Collection at the Nashville Downtown Library

The collection at the Nashville Public Library features black & white photos from the Civil Rights era in Nashville and a circular table in the center of the room representing the lunch counters of Nashville, locations of many sit-in protests that fueled the Civil Rights Movement.