Children engage in an activity at the Newark Museum for Martin Luther King, Jr., Day.
Courtesy of the Newark Museum

Half a century has gone by since the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., lost his life to an assassin's bullet in Memphis,Tennessee.

Shot down and silenced on April 4, 1968, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. dedicated his life to speaking out against injustice, inequality, poverty and war. Museums and other cultural institutions are planning special programming to mark both the King Day of Service on Monday and the day of his assassination, notably at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, which built itself in and around the Lorraine Motel, where King was assassinated.

L.A. Theatre Works currently is on tour with "The Mountaintop," a play by Katori Hall which imagines King's thoughts and actions in room 306 the night before he died. The play premiered in London in 2009 and later ran on Broadway, starring Angela Bassett and Samuel L. Jackson.

Room 306 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, where King was assassinated, is now part of the National Civil Rights Museum.
Courtesy of James Richardson/National Civil Rights Museum

The L.A. Theatre Works tour runs through April 23, with performances throughout the country. Dates include Feb. 8 at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, NJ; Feb. 9 at Raritan Valley Community College in Branchburg, NJ, and March 10 and 11 at Queens Theatre in the Flushing section of Queens, NY. For ticket info and the full tour schedule, visit baylinartists.com.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater embarks on a North American tour, performing "r-Evolution, Dream," a work inspired by King's speeches, choreographed by dancer Hope Boykin. In recognition of the 50th anniversary of King's death, it will be performed in Atlanta at the Fabulous Fox Theatre on Feb. 16th in an evening dedicated to King, billed as “MLK 50 – Celebrating the Legacy.”

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's "r-Evolution, Dream," choreographed by Hope Boykin.
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Other key tour dates include Chapel Hill, NC, on Jan. 30, Memphis on Feb. 3 and Charlotte, NC, on Feb. 27. The tour culminates with a weekend of shows at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, May 11 through 13. For details, go to alvinailey.org.

Meanwhile, on the holiday that marks what would have been King's 89th birthday, Americans will have ample opportunity to speak out, sing out, and listen hard. Jan. 15 will be a day of community service and community celebration, as there are connections still to be made and so much work yet to be done. 

ALABAMA

Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, 454 Dexter Ave., Montgomery, AL, 36104. dexterkingmemorial.org or 334-263-3970.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was pastor at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, AL.
Courtesy of the Montgomery Chamber Of Commerce

Jan. 15: The 43rd Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Celebration begins at 9:30 a.m. and includes a march to the state capitol, followed by snacks and fellowship. From 1954 to 1960, King was pastor of this red brick church, which was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1974. A mural depicts the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955 and 1956 and other milestones of the civil rights movement led by King. 

Watch in April for the opening in Montgomery of The Legacy Museum, which traces the effects of slavery throughout American history, and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which remembers African-American victims of lynching and torture. Both are projects of the Equal Justice Initiative. For updates, go to museumandmemorial.eji.org. 

The Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, AL, draws visitors to the state capital.
Courtesy of Bryan Carter/Montgomery Chamber Of Commerce

CALIFORNIA

33rd Annual Kingdom Day Parade, Congress Of Racial Equality California (CORE-CA), Los Angeles, CA, 90062. kingdomdayparade.org or 844-454-6432.

Jan. 15: Billed as "the biggest celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.," the Kingdom Day Parade,organized by CORE-CA, runs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. along Martin Luther King and Crenshaw boulevards and Vernon Avenue. It will be broadcast live on ABC.  

GEORGIA

Center for Civil and Human Rights, 100 Ivan Allen Jr. Blvd., Atlanta, GA 30313. civilandhumanrights.org or 678-999-8990.

Jan. 13 - 15: "Live The Legacy," a weekend of events to mark the national holiday, with community sing-alongs, readings of King's speeches, film screenings and panel discussions. All events are free. 

Atlanta History Center, 130 West Paces Ferry Road NW, Atlanta, GA, 30305. atlantahistorycenter.com or 404-814-4000.

Jan. 15: Free admission to the Atlanta History Center, with special programming about the contributions to the city by African Americans. Highlights include screenings at 1 and 3 p.m. of the 2014 documentary "A Trek To The River's Edge," about students who were jailed for protesting segregation in the 1960s, but who ultimately transformed Atlanta. Discussions with the filmmaker, Althea Brown, and with leaders of the Atlanta Student Movement will follow. 

"Newsboy," one of the museum theatre performances to be presented during the Atlanta History Center's Martin Luther King Jr. Day observance.
Courtesy of Atlanta History Center

Performances of the 15-minute theater piece "Newsboys," about the 1906 Atlanta Race Riot from the perspective of a paperboy, will take place throughout the day. Other theatrical pieces, as well as storytelling and screenings of films and of King's speeches, also will be part of the day's events.

ILLINOIS

Chicago History Museum, 1601 North Clark St., Chicago, IL 60614-6038. chicagohistory.org or 312-642-4600.

Jan. 15: An all-day, family-friendly event honoring the life and legacy of King begins at 10 a.m., including a Writers Theatre production of "The MLK Project: The Fight for Civil Rights," and a performance by the Chicago Chamber Choir. Storytelling, crafts. Among current exhibitions is "Race: Are We So Different?" through July 15. Museum admission is free for Illinois residents on Jan. 15. Out-of-state admission is $16 for adults, $14 for ages 13 to 22 and 65 and over, free for children 12 and younger.

Also, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of King's death, the Chicago History Museum opens its newest exhibition on Jan. 15. "Remembering Dr. King: 1929-1968," examines King's work in Chicago and around the nation, as well as his impact in 2018.

MARYLAND

Reginald F. Lewis Museum, 830 East Pratt St., Baltimore. MD, 21202. lewismuseum.org or 443-263-1800

Jan. 15: A day of reflection and activity, with performances, community discussions, films, quilting party and crafts, beginning at noon. “Man of Peace: The 50th Anniversary of the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.”  features choral presentations and spoken texts from Martin Luther King, Jr., set to chamber music by Benny Russell and performed by Peabody's Tuned In Orchestra. $5.

MICHIGAN

The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, 315 East Warren Ave., Detroit, MI 4820. thewright.org or 313-494-5800. 

Jan. 15:  A full day of programming makes Martin Luther King, Jr. Day the busiest day of the year for The Charles H. Wright Museum. From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., there will be musical performances, arts and crafts, children's workshops, storytelling, video tributes, and displays of artifacts pertaining to King and his widow, Coretta Scott King. Two exhibitions also open on Jan. 15: "i found god in myself: a celebration of Dr. Ntozake Shange’s for colored girls…" and "Untitled: Art from Detroit’s Collections." Museum admission is $8 for ages 13 and older, $5 for seniors 62 and older and children ages three through 12, and free for babies.

The Charles H. Wright Museum in Detroit has programming for Martin Luther King Jr. Day and for the 50th anniversary of King's death.
Courtesy of the Charles H. Wright Museum

Preceding the day's events at 8 a.m. will be the 18th annual Martin Luther King Day Commemorative Breakfast, with keynote speech by the Rev. Dr. Robert M. Franklin, Jr., former president of Morehouse College and currently the James T. and Berta R. Laney Chair in Moral Leadership at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. Tickets are $35.

April 4: To mark the 50th anniversary of King's death, the museum will host a lecture and book signing at 6 p.m. by William F. Pepper, author of "The Plot to Kill King: The Truth Behind the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr."  Pepper was James Earl Ray's lawyer, and he still maintains that Ray did not shoot King.

NEW JERSEY 

New Jersey Performing Arts Center, 1 Center St., Newark, NJ, 07102. njpac.org or 973-353-8035.

Jan. 12: A gospel concert at 8 p.m. to celebrate King's legacy, with performers Mary Mary and Tasha Cobbs. $29. 

The Newark Museum offers programming for all ages to mark Martin Luther King, Jr., Day.
Courtesy of the Newark Museum

Newark Museum, 48 Washington St., Newark, NJ 07102-3176. newarkmuseum.org or 973-596-6550

Jan. 15: A community day from noon to 5 p.m., with musical and spoken-word performances, including a dramatic reading of King's "Letter From A Birmingham Jail" by Gary Edison and a screening of King's "I Have A Dream" speech. Premier Dance Theatre Company of Montclair will perform a tribute to King at 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. Scavenger hunt and other activities for all ages. Free for Newark residents, $5 for others.

NEW YORK

Big Onion Walking Tours, New York City. bigonion.com or 212-439-1090 or 888-606-9255.

Jan. 15: "Martin Luther King Day in Historic Harlem," a two-hour walking tour led by graduate students in history. The tour focuses on places important to the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, explaining how that time of artistic and intellectual innovations laid the foundation for the early civil rights movement. Sites include those associated with King, along with Malcolm X, the civil rights activist and sociologist W.E.B. DuBois, the entrepreneur and activist Madam C.J. Walker and others. $25, or $20 for seniors and $15 for students.

Dance Theatre of Harlem, at New York City Center, 131 W. 55th St., between Sixth and Seventh avenues, Manhattan, NY dancetheatreofharlem.org or 212-690-2800. 

April 4: The dance company's 2018 "Vision Gala" will honor King's memory, with performances by professional and student dancers, followed by an awards ceremony, dinner and after-party at the Park Hyatt on West 57th Street. For ticket details, check the website.

PENNSYLVANIA

African American Museum in Philadelphia, 701 Arch St. at Seventh Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106. aampmuseum.org or 215-574-0380 

Jan. 15: An all-day celebration includes exhibits, hands-on service projects, performances and a food drive. $14 for adults, $10 for seniors, students and children ages four through 12.

TENNESSEE

National Civil Rights Museum, 450 Mulberry St., Memphis, TN, 38103. civilrightsmuseum.org or 901-521-9699.

Jan. 15: A full day of programming on King's birthday, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., on the theme "Where Do We Go From Here?" Museum tours, live music and spoken-word performances, educational activities and crafts for children, health fair, community service opportunities. $5 for all ages, or $3 with donation to the food drive, or free for up to four people with a single blood donation.

Ongoing programming through April commemorates the 50th anniversary of King's assassination. Lech Walesa, former president of Poland, will join the commemoration from April 4 through 6, along with high school students from Poland. The cultural exchange will involve discussing both the Civil Rights movement in the U.S. in the 1960s and the Solidarity Movement among Polish laborers in the 1980s. Other Highlights include:

April 2: "Beyond The Balcony," an art exhibition at the Art Village Gallery in Memphis, in which artists of multi-racial and multi-cultural backgrounds, to explore solutions to social, political and economic injustices.

April 2 and 3: "MLK50: Where Do We Go From Here?" A two-day symposium with keynote speaker Eric Holder, former U.S. Attorney General, on April 2, and a panel discussion April 3, moderated by NPR's Michele Norris. A ticketed luncheon on April 3 will feature the historian and King biographer Taylor Branch as keynote speaker.

April 4: The museum courtyard will host activities all day, with musical and spoken-word tirbutes to King, with free admission, followed by a ticketed event, "An Evening Of Storytelling."

WASHINGTON, D.C.

National Museum of African American History & Culture, 1400 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC, 20560. nmaahc.si.edu or 844-750-3012. 

Jan. 15: "The People's Holiday," with live music and hands-on activities, including flag design and a memorial button craft, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and "King: A Filmed Record...Montgomery To Memphis," with documentary screenings from 2 to 6 p.m. Free admission, but registration is required. 

Kennedy Center, 2700 F St., Washington, DC, 20566. kennedy-center.org or 800-444-1324. 

Jan. 15: "Let Freedom Ring," a concert at 6 p.m., featuring Vanessa Williams and the Let Freedom Ring Choir. Free tickets distributed in person, beginning at 4:30 p.m. Jan. 15. Two tickets per person in line.