Campus events honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Yale will honor the civil rights leader with several events, including library exhibits, a poetry slam, storytelling — and an address by Martin Luther King III.

The Yale and New Haven communities will commemorate the life and legacy of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. during a series of campus events, including a keynote address by his eldest son, Martin Luther King III.

The campus celebrations, which also will include library exhibits highlighting King’s contributions, a poetry slam, an exploration of King’s influence on environmental justice, and a love march, are part of the university’s annual campus commemoration of the famed civil rights activist and preacher.

This year marks the first time in three years that events will be held in person on campus following all-virtual celebrations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of the events this year will be hybrid; participants can attend in person or view events online.

Sanctuary in the Storm’: Keynote by Martin Luther King III

The keynote address by Martin Luther King III will begin at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 18 in Woolsey Hall, 500 College St. King, himself a civil rights activist and a humanitarian, will give an address titled “Sanctuary in the Storm: Healing in Action.”

Registration is required for the free event, which will also be broadcast live on Yale's YouTube channel. Doors will open at 5:15 p.m., and masks are required for entry to Woolsey Hall.

In his address, King will address the continued need to fight for civil rights in the U.S. and across the world, what is needed to sustain a commitment to a more just society, and the importance of protecting the advocates who devote their lives to this work.

Read more about the event.

King’s legacy of social, environmental justice

The Yale Peabody Museum, in collaboration with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and the New Haven Museum, will host the 27th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy of Social and Environmental Justice, a program of free events that are open to all.  The event takes place Sunday and Monday, Jan. 15 and Jan. 16; all offerings can be enjoyed either in person or via Zoom.

The event will begin on Sunday with family storytelling and dancing at the New Haven Museum, 114 Whitney Ave., 12:30 p.m.–3:30 p.m. The event features family programs celebrating King’s life and legacy. Storytellers Joy Donaldson, Waltrina Kirkland, and Clifton Graves will share fables, anecdotes, and stories that honor King’s work and his impact on the justice movement. Ms. Hanan’s Dance and Beyond will present an interactive performance of cultural dance and drumming from the African diaspora. Child-friendly activities will be offered throughout the New Haven Museum by program partners DEEP and the Amistad Committee, and Peabody Museum scientists will introduce attendees to fascinating specimens from the paleobotany collection. Events are free, but space is limited. Register for in-person attendance or to attend via Zoom. Masks are required at the New Haven Museum.

The Z Experience Poetry Slam will take place on Monday, 11:30 am.–2:30 p.m. in the O.C. Marsh Lecture Hall of the Yale Science Building, 260 Whitney Ave. Poets and performers Croilot and Ngoma will emcee the spoken-word experience, which honors poetry slam founder Zannette Lewis. After stories by Croilot and Ngoma, a slate of poets will compete in the poetry slam, and there will be a curated open mic. During the event, participants can also visit tables hosted by the National Council of Negro Women and the New Haven African American Historical Society to hear about work being done in the groups’ communities. Museum staff will offer the latest information about the Peabody Museum’s renovation. This event is appropriate for adults and young adults with the discretion of a parent or guardian. Read Yale’s vaccination and mask requirements before attending. Register to attend in person; or to attend via Zoom.

Free parking for these events is available in Yale Lot 22, 260 Whitney Ave.

53rd annual Love March

Created to conserve the notion of nonviolence, the Love March is now in its 53rd year and will take place on Sunday, Jan. 15, 10:30 a.m.–1 p.m. The march will begin at Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, 100 Lawrence St. in New Haven. This year’s theme is “Pressing Without Stressing,” which is meant to speak to continued injustices that African Americans continue to experience. King used marches as a way to confront community and national issues while working in unity with others for positive change. The event is open to the public.

The Kings at Yale’

Martin Luther King Jr. visited Yale in 1959, 1962 and 1964, and his wife Coretta Scott King visited the campus in 1969. “The Kings at Yale,” an exhibition in the nave of Sterling Memorial Library at 120 High St., is drawn from the Yale Library’s Manuscripts and Archives collections and documents their visits.

King was first invited to Yale in 1959 by an undergraduate lecture committee. He spoke on “The Future of Integration.” When he returned to Yale in 1964 to receive an honorary degree, he had just two days before been released on bail from a St. Augustine, Florida jail, where he had been arrested for ordering food in a “whites-only” motel. King’s honorary degree stirred public debate around the country.

Coretta Scott King was named the first Frances Blanshard Fellow at Yale in 1969, the year after King’s assassination. While she was on campus, she met with women graduate students and spoke to a standing-room only crowd in Woolsey Hall on the importance of campus unrest in addressing social injustices.

The materials on exhibition in “The Kings at Yale” are reproductions of records from the Office of Yale President Kingman Brewster, the Office of Public Affairs and Communications, Yale Events and Activities Photographs, Building and Grounds Photographs, the Helen Hadley Hall Fellowship Program, and Yale News. The exhibit will be on view through Feb. 23, and is open during library hours. It can also be viewed online.

A one-day exhibit at the Beinecke Library

A special one-day exhibit of highlights from the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library’s collections related to Martin Luther King Jr. and the American freedom movement will be on display on Monday, Jan. 16, from noon–4 p.m. in the courtyard-level reading room. Many of the materials on view are drawn from the library’s James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection of African American Arts and Letters, highlighting King’s life, legacy, impact, and the long civil rights movement in the United States.

All visitors must check bags, coats, and personal belongings in secure lockers on the library’s ground floor before entering the reading room. Space may be limited, and the last entry will take place at 3:30 p.m. COVID-19 vaccinations are required for all guests age five and older, and proof of vaccination may be asked for.

A special webinar presentation on some highlights from the Yale Library’s collections related to King’s visits to Yale and his connections to other figures in the collections of the Beinecke Library (see below) will take place on Monday, Jan. 23, 4–4:30 p.m. The session will be led by Tubyez Cropper, Jennifer Coggins, and Michael Morand of the Beinecke Library, and by Scott Libson of the Yale Divinity School Library as part of the “Mondays at Beinecke” series of online talks. Register to attend the Zoom session.

King and Langston Hughes

The Beinecke Library will also host a temporary display in its mezzanine highlighting the friendship between Martin Luther King Jr. and the poet Langston Hughes, drawn from the library’s Langston Hughes Papers. The collection served as a key source for a 2015 book by Jason W. Miller of the North Carolina State University called “Origins of the Dream: Hughes’s Poetry and King’s Rhetoric.”

The display features a selection of materials about an encounter between Hughes and King related to a tribute to labor leader A. Philip Randolph in January 1960. King requested that Hughes write a poem for the event. The correspondence between King and Hughes has been digitized and is also available online.

Equity, justice, peace and protest’

The Yale Center for British Art, celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.'s vision for a more compassionate and just future, will have a special display of items in its study room that highlight the concepts of equity, justice, peace, and protest in drawings, photographs, and prints. Highlights include hand-colored plates by William Blake, from his book “Jerusalem,” and Lewis Morley’s photographs of anti-Vietnam war rallies in London. Appointments are not needed. Learn more at the YBCA site.

King’s legacy of ecosystem engineering

The Yale School of the Environment’s (YSE) Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion will host a talk by Nyeema Harris, the Knobloch Family Associate Professor of Wildlife and Land Conservation, about Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy of ecosystem engineering. The talk will take place 11 a.m.–12:30 p.m. on Jan. 23 in Kroon Hall, 195 Prospect St.

Harris, who joined the YSE faculty in 2021, conducts work that spans the globe and ecosystems, including urban environments, the tropics, and African protected areas. She is especially interested in inclusive scholarship that contributes to promoting wildlife persistence and coexistence.

Her talk is free and open to the public, but advance registration is required. Lunch will be provided.

See all MLK Commemoration events at


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