Martin Luther King Jr.

Tavis Smiley 2014

There’s a disconnect between Martin Luther King Jr. celebrations today, and attitudes toward the man before he was killed in 1968, author Tavis Smiley says.

When King was assassinated, many had abandoned him, Smiley said in his latest book, “Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Year.” The book examines assaults on King’s character, ideology and political tactics, and his lasting legacy.

The last year of his life was King’s most dynamic, Smiley told “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh earlier this week.

 the Rev. Dr. William G. Gillespie Residence Hall and Student Center at Harris-Stowe State University
Harris-Stowe State University website

After a heated exchange on Martin Luther King Day between protesters supporting “reclaimMLK” and Harris-Stowe State University students, the university and protesters are working to turn confrontation into conversation. On Tuesday student representatives and administrators met with a Ferguson activist to start a dialogue and “hopefully move forward as a community.”

Joseph Leahy / St. Louis Public Radio

Celebrations in St. Louis for Martin Luther King Jr. were interspersed with protests on Monday as activists continued their call for social justice in the wake of the police shooting of Michael Brown last August in Ferguson.

Marion S. Trikosko / Wikimedia Commons

A wide variety of St. Louis events are marking Martin Luther King Day. While many people will participate in marches (one starts at 11 a.m. at the Old Courthouse following a 9:30 a.m. program Jan. 19) and attend discussions, some will spend the day volunteering.

The slain civil rights leader was born on Jan. 15, 1929. He was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

Joseph Leahy / St. Louis Public Radio

Thousands of St. Louis-area residents celebrated the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with ceremonies, music and marches over the three-day weekend.

Christ Church Cathedral in downtown St. Louis hosted readings on Monday of King's writings, sermons and speeches from the same pulpit where he once preached 50 years ago.

Provided by Mrs. Dempsey

Dorothy Dempsey turned her thoughts Sunday to Martin Luther King by attending Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis as a member of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Knights of St. Peter Claver.

The local branch of this Catholic fraternal organization turns out each year to celebrate the life and legacy of the civil rights leader who was born on Jan. 15, 1929, and assassinated on April 4, 1968, when he was 39.

Courtesy of the Black Rep

The actual meeting never happened. But “The Meeting,” opening Wednesday, dramatizes the “what ifs” of a one-hour conversation between Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X.

The Black Rep will stage its presentation of “The Meeting” through Jan. 26 in its 37th-season home at Harris-Stowe State University.

Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio

An estimated 200 people braved the heat and humidity to gather outside the Missouri Capitol and commemorate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, delivered during the March on Washington on August 28th, 1963.

Several speakers took turns reading portions of King's famous speech, including the Reverend James Howard Jr. of Jefferson City.

"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed, 'we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,'" Howard said as he quoted King.

Tim Lloyd / St. Louis Public Radio

A small crowd gathered at Kiener Plaza in downtown St. Louis on Saturday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s “I Have a Dream” speech.

The event was put together by the recently founded St. Louis Reconciliation Network, which has the mission of bridging racial divides through the collaboration of religious leaders.  

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  In remembering that historic event, the first name that comes to mind to most people is Reverend Martin Luther King and his I Have a Dream Speech.  But few know that the person responsible for a large part of the organization of that march and also for motivating King to his non violent method of activism was another civil rights activist, Bayard Rustin.

Lauer Architecture

A few years ago, St. Louis non-profit organization Beloved Streets of America conducted a study about streets throughout the country which bear the name of Martin Luther King Jr.

The study found the majority of MLK streets are unsafe and crime-ridden.  Many are “located in distressed neighborhoods, considered areas where predominately poor blacks live, and viewed as places where whites and non-blacks seldom travel,” according to the organization.

(Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)

Local dignitaries and politicians filled the rotunda of the Old Courthouse in downtown St. Louis on Monday for the city's 44th annual celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

The city's celebration is the second-oldest in the country, behind only Atlanta. In addition to celebrating the slain civil rights leader, who would have been 83 on January 15th, most speakers also rejoiced in the second inauguration of President Barack Obama, who took the oath of office in Washington, DC  as the proceedings took place.

Wikimedia Commons/Library of Congress

Americans are well-aware of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King. His fight for justice was aimed at changing the world, but during the fifties and sixties sought to resonate most heavily in his home country. Today his legacy has been celebrated tenfold – there are numerous streets and landmarks dedicated in his honor, the government designated his birthday as a national holiday in 1986, and just last year he became the first African American to have a monument designed in his honor on the National Mall.

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

The third Monday in January may be marked as a National Day of Service, but Christ Church Cathedral is remembering the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King with a day of speech and reflection in order to spur change. The Cathedral is giving citizens an opportunity to listen and read a selection of his speeches aloud. “Let Freedom Ring” began four years ago after the very reverend Mike Kinman, dean of Christ Church Cathedral, realized there was no element of reflection evident in the service projects that others were completing.

“What it is, is it gives a foundation of reflection so that we can consider what that work is,” he said. “He never was an activist for activism’s sake. Everything was thoughtful, prayerful, reasoned, considered.” The day is not a discouragement to performing public service, however. “What we are hoping that people will do is embody that in their lives…do your five hours at the soup kitchen, then come here and speak these words, and consider what it was that you were doing, and consider what more it is that you are called to do,” says Kinman.

The program will be held from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. in the nave of the Cathedral. Participants can choose to read aloud, volunteer to man a 30 minute shift, or simply listen at any time during the day.

(Photo Courtesy: University of Missouri - St. Louis)

A leading advocate for equal rights argues infant mortality, access to education, and unemployment remain major issues of inequality in the African American community.

Julianne Malveaux is a labor economist, author and political commentator.  She is also the former President of Bennett College, a historically black college for women in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Host Don Marsh talked with Malveaux in advance of her speech at the University of Missouri – St. Louis to commemorate the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.

Wikimedia Commons/Library of Congress

Celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr by attending several events that will be hosted throughout the area. Occasions include lectures, discussions, music performances, and marches.

All events are free unless otherwise stated.

Know of another event worth adding? Send to Erin Williams at

January 12

Women Who Dare To Dream

Harris-Stowe State University hosts the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. State Celebration Commission of Missouri’s State Celebration kickoff event. The Trumpet Awards Foundation’s CEO, executive producer, founder, and president Xernona Clayton will deliver the keynote address.

6:30 p.m. Harris-Stowe State University’s Main Auditorium

*January 14

"Monday Movie Madness"

St. Louis Public Library honors the legacy of Dr. King with their weekly movie series. On this day they are screening the documentary “Good Day To Die,” which tells the story of Native American Dennis Banks, co-founder of the American Indian Movement.  Refreshments and discussion to follow.

6 p.m., Schlafly Branch - 225 North Euclid Avenue

January 17

St. Louis Jewish Book Festival presents a discussion with author and Rabbi Ben Kamin and Black Repertory Company founder Ron Himes on civil rights and social justice. Includes presentation in honor of Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis President & CEO Dr. James Buford for his work in helping to solidify African American and Jewish relations.

$8, 7 p.m. at Jewish Community Center’s Staenberg Family Complex

2 Millstone Campus Drive

January 18

"Where Justice & Charity Meet: Fighting Hunger In St. Louis"

A roundtable discussion on fighting hunger in St. Louis, with a keynote address to be given by Jeanne Mott Oxford, executive director of the Missouri Association for Social Welfare.

Norman K Probstein Golf Course, Forest Park

8 a.m. – Noon


Register by emailing

January 18 and 21

“Overcoming Inequality…Embracing Diversity”

Barnes-Jewish and St Louis Children’s Hospitals present Reverend Michele Sue, the first black woman elder ordained in Missouri United Methodism on January 18; and past president and founding member of the National Black Sisters Conference Sister Mary Antona Ebo, FSM, on January 21.

January 18 at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, third floor auditorium

January 21, Noon at the Eric P. Newman Education Center, 320 South Euclid

Noon, with 11:30 a.m. music prelude at both events

(from Christ Church Cathedral)

For the third year in a row, Christ Church Cathedral in downtown St. Louis will give area residents a chance to read and hear the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The dean of the Episcopal cathedral, The Very Rev. Mike Kinman, says  he appreciates the call from President Obama to make King's birthday a day of service. But he says the readings are designed to provide the reflective counterpart that was also a crucial part of King's life.

(via Flickr/Be.Futureproof)

If you're planning to be in downtown St. Louis for the Cardinals' Winter Warm-Up or other events on Monday, you'll need to take note of the following road closures for the Martin Luther King Day march.

Closures along the route will begin at 10:30 a.m. Assembly for the parade, which goes from the Old Courthouse to Powell Symphony Hall, begins at 11 a.m. at the Courthouse, and marchers will step off at 11:30 a.m.

The route is as follows:

Marion S. Trikosko / Wikimedia Commons

For some, Dr. Martin Luther King Junior Day will be a day of service rather than a day off.

More than 400 volunteers are expected to take part in projects organized by AmeriCorps St. Louis and the City of St. Louis.

Brittany Ledbetter with AmeriCorps says they're hoping to foster volunteerism that will help the community long-term.

(Flickr creative commons user HAM guy)

If you heard that a barge hit the Martin Luther King bridge, it's true, but don't worry about adjusting your commute to avoid this part of the mighty Mississippi.