Martin Luther King III to deliver keynote at 2024 MLK commemoration

Civil rights leader to speak Jan. 30 at Rockefeller Chapel, where his father first spoke in 1956

Martin Luther King III, who has dedicated his life to building upon the historic civil rights work of his late father and mother, will be the keynote speaker at the University of Chicago’s 2024 MLK Commemoration Celebration on Jan. 30.

The event, which will begin at 6 p.m. at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, is free and open to the public. The event also will be webcast.

The eldest son of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, King III is a civil rights activist, global humanitarian and political leader who has worked to promote human rights and eradicate racism, violence and poverty across the world. He’s also spoken publicly and led marches across the nation advocating for voting rights legislation.

The 34th annual MLK commemoration continues a rich tradition at UChicago, which annually invites speakers who have followed in King’s footsteps to address the UChicago and local communities. Past speakers have included former President Barack Obama, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Attorney General Eric Holder. King III will speak at the same Rockefeller Chapel where his father made his first major address in Chicago in 1956. (King later spoke at UChicago in 1959 and 1966.)

“It is a privilege to visit the University of Chicago campus and walk in the footsteps of my late father,” King III said. “Within these halls of learning, my father advocated for social justice several times between 1956 and 1966. His speeches powerfully captured his message of hope, courage and determination. Today, I return to echo his message that our fight for equality is not over. Sixty years after his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, the dream has yet to be realized. We are all holders of my father’s legacy. Let us continue to strive for change. We cannot risk letting that dream slip away.”

Throughout his career, King III has been a visible advocate for social justice and change. In 2020, he spoke on the anniversary of his father’s “I Have a Dream Address,” urging people marching in Washington, D.C. in response to the murder of George Floyd to continue Dr. King’s pursuit of racial equality. In 2021, King, his wife Arndrea Waters King and their daughter Yolanda Renee King led marches across the country, demanding federal action on voting rights legislation. In January 2022, Martin and Arndrea again marched in Washington, calling on Congress to protect the right to vote.

Most recently, King and Waters King have taken over leadership of the Drum Major Institute, a nonprofit organization that aims to advance Dr. King’s mission through education, action, engagement with world leaders, and collaboration with socially conscious organizations. They are also partnering with dozens of organizations to empower Black and Brown organizers to mobilize ahead of the 2024 election.

Following King’s address at UChicago’s commemoration, he will join a discussion with Assoc. Prof. Adam Green, a scholar of African American history. The event also will include opening remarks from President Paul Alivisatos, who also will honor the recipients of this year’s Diversity Leadership Awards. Uniting Voices Chicago will perform at the event.

“It is a distinct honor to welcome Martin King III to join the University’s annual MLK commemoration as we celebrate his late father’s trailblazing commitments and accomplishments toward advancing civil rights for all,” said Vice Provost Waldo E. Johnson Jr. “The commemoration remains a highlight among University-sponsored events that foster community engagement, diversity and inclusion and honors faculty, students and staff diversity leaders within our academic community whose good works advance Dr. King’s dream.”

Guests are encouraged to register for tickets and for access to the webcast. Learn more at UChicago’s MLK Commemoration Celebration website.

Other events on campus, South Side

  • Community day of service: In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the University Community Service Center is inviting the UChicago and local communities to participate in its annual day of service. The event, which will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Jan. 15, will focus on beautification and outreach projects at local schools and other sites in the community. Learn more and sign up at the UCSC website
  • Daylong reading of MLK’s texts: On Jan. 16, the Divinity School and the Martin Marty Center are inviting members of the UChicago community to participate in a daylong reading of some of Dr. King’s most significant and illuminating texts—from his well-known speeches to rarely cited essays. Guests are welcome to attend as a reader or listener, beginning at 9 a.m.; sign up here to participate as a reader.
  • Community tea and discussion: On Jan. 19, the University Community Service Center welcomes the UChicago community and the public to attend a discussion about how Dr. King’s time in Chicago influenced housing policy. The free event will provide warm drinks and snacks. Learn more at the UCSC website.