Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Bluegrass

a photo of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. | Photo by Wikimedia

Library of Congress

Monday, January 17 is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, so we thought we’d share the history of his presence in the Bluegrass + what you can do to honor his life and legacy.

How is Dr. King connected to the Bluegrass?

  • In 1957, the 28-year-old Dr. King gave the commencement speech to graduates at Kentucky State University. The event had to be moved to Frankfort High School’s brand-new gymnasium because the crowd he drew was so large.
  • In 1964, Dr. King spoke in Frankfort again — this time with friend and baseball legend Jackie Robinson. Together, the two men led 10,000 people to peacefully rally at the Kentucky State Capitol building — demanding an end to segregation + discrimination in stores, restaurants, theaters + businesses.
  • In 1987, the Martin Luther King Jr. Cultural Center officially opened at the University of Kentucky. Rooted in Dr. King’s philosophy — the center is a campus-wide safe space for civic dialogue + community building.
What can I do to celebrate?

Freedom March | Mon., Jan. 17 at 10 a.m.

Every year, the University of Kentucky + Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government host the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration in downtown Lexington. This year’s celebration will take place at the High Street entrance of the Central Bank Center. Lexingtonians are invited to gather and participate in the Freedom March — a march through downtown Lexington in honor of Dr. King’s philosophy and teachings. Registration is required to march.

Virtual Commemorative Program | Mon., Jan. 17 at 12 p.m.

US Sen. Raphael Warnock will be the keynote speaker at this virtual celebration put on by the MLK Holiday Planning Committee. The theme of the presentation is “Dr. King’s Beloved Community 2022: Facing a Time of Reckoning in An Age of Denial” + will feature local artists. Watch live on the Lexington MLK Holiday YouTube channel.

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