MLK Day Service 2024: Watch the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Service

As Atlanta and the nation celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, you can watch the celebrations and services live from home. The theme of The King Center's annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Service is "It Starts with Me: Shifting the Cultural Climate through Study and Practice of Kingian Nonviolence."

The annual MLK Day Beloved Community Commemorative Service takes place at Atlanta's Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church.


How to watch the MLK Day Service live

As in years past, there are several ways to watch the MLK Day Service live: 

The official program begins at 10 a.m. Monday, Jan. 15, 2024. The broadcast will be hosted by FOX 5 Atlanta's Deidra Dukes.


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. arrives in Montgomery, Alabama on March 25th 1965 at the culmination of the Selma to Montgomery March. Pictured from left, Ralph Bunche, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Coretta Scott King, Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, Hosea Willi

Who is the MLK Day Service 2024 keynote speaker?

The keynote speaker will be Rev. Shavon Arline-Bradley, the president of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) and founding principal and CEO of R.E.A.C.H. Beyond Solutions, a public health, advocacy, and executive leadership firm promoting EDI, political and organizational strategy, risk management, government affairs, and technical assistance.


Before beginning her work with R.E.A.C.H. Beyond Solutions, Arline-Bradley was the senior advisor and director of external engagement in the Department of Health and Human Services during the Obama Administration.


Shavon Arline-Bradley (Credit: National Council Negro Women, Inc. website)

Prior to that, she served as the executive vice president of strategic planning and partnerships and the chief of staff for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) headquarters.

Rev. Arline-Bradley has an Executive Certificate of Business Management from Howard University and an Executive Certificate in Diversity & Inclusion from Cornell University. She received both her bachelor's and master's in public health from Tulane University and graduated from the Samuel Dewitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University with a Master of Divinity.

Arline-Bradley is a New Jersey native with a passion for global and domestic health, business, politics, education, sisterhood and religion.

Why do we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day?

MLK Day is a federal holiday that celebrates the birth of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and encourages the world to reflect on the issues of racism and civil rights.

Widely regarded as one of the greatest nonviolent leaders in history, King spearheaded the Civil Rights Movement from the mid-1950s until his assassination in 1968. He was the driving force behind landmark events like the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the March on Washington.


MLK Day is always celebrated on the third Monday in January, meaning it may not always land on King's actual birthday, Jan. 15. In fact, 2024 marks the first time since 2018 that we'll celebrate on his big day. It won't happen again until 2029.


Dr. Martin Luther King being shoved back by Mississippi patrolmen during the 220 mile 'March Against Fear' from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi, Mississippi, June 8, 1966. (Photo by Underwood Archives/Getty Images)

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. many people spend the day giving back to their community, often referring to the holiday as a "day on, not a day off." Congress designated the holiday as a national day of service. President Bill Clinton signed the legislation into law on Aug. 23, 1994.

AmeriCorps has nationally coordinated MLK Day of Service since 1994. There's an online matchmaker tool that can help you find a community service event near you. Here are some examples:

  • Atlanta: Enchanted Closet, Inc. needs help preparing for its 20th Annual PROM Dress Giveaway
  • Cumming: MusicLink is looking for experienced music teachers willing to offer their services at a discount
  • Decatur: Gentiva Hospice needs companions who can offer their time to support patients facing life-limiting illnesses
  • Duluth: H.O.P.E. Inc. is searching for volunteers to join their fundraising committee
  • Kennesaw: Lasagna Love is looking for cooks with a big heart who can whip up a pan of lasagna for their neighbors in need
  • Newnan: American Red Cross is recruiting volunteers for disaster cycles, blood drives, service to the Armed Forces and more

Along with the commemorative service, the King Center is hosting a series of award shows, galas, red carpets, receptions and multiple community service projects. You can find out more about the various events and how you can volunteer here.

When did MLK Day become a holiday?

Dr. King's birthday was finally made a federal holiday in 1983, but it wasn't until 2000 that all 50 states fully recognized it.

In 1968, Michigan Rep. John Conyers introduced the first motion to make King's birthday a federal holiday four days after he was assassinated in Memphis. He would bring it up every year in every legislative session until 1983.

Illinois became the first state to adopt MLK Day as a state holiday in 1973. Other states, including Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Jersey followed suit, enacting their own statewide holidays during this time.

It took 11 years from Conyers' initial motion before it was finally brought to a vote in the House of Representatives in 1979.

The bill failed to pass by just five votes: 252-133.


Eventually, celebrities joined the fight. In 1981, Stevie Wonder released his soulful remix of "Happy Birthday," making it the anthem for the movement and a crowd favorite that lives on today.


ATLANTA JANUARY 13: Stevie Wonder and Coretta Scott King backstage during M.L.K Gala at The Atlanta Civic Center in Atlanta Georgia, January 13, 1982 (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images

In 1983, the House took up the bill again, passing it by 53 votes.

Despite an attempt from Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina to paint King as a communist, the bill was also passed in the Senate by 12 votes.

President Ronald Reagan signed legislation declaring every third Monday in January to be a federal holiday honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. and his service to the U.S.


President Reagan signs Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday proclamation, with (L-R) Coretta Scott King, son Dexter, sister-in-law Christine Farris, Pierce & Abernathy. (Photo by Diana Walker/Getty Images)

The first national celebration of MLK Day took place on Jan. 20, 1986.

Despite the legislation, individual states continued to resist passing a state holiday, especially Arizona. In 1987, Arizona Gov. Evan Mecham rescinded MLK Day as his first act in office. Many entertainers and organizations began to boycott the state. The NFL even moved the 1993 Super Bowl from Phoenix to Pasadena, costing Arizona millions in lost revenue.

In 1992, Arizona's citizens voted to enact MLK Day. The Super Bowl was brought back to them in 1996.

By 1993, MLK Day was celebrated in some form, sometimes even under a different name, in all 50 states. However, it wasn't until 1999 that New Hampshire became the last state to adopt it as a paid state holiday, replacing its optional "Civil Rights Day."

In 2000, Utah brought up the rear as the last state to recognize MLK Day by name, replacing "Human Rights Day."

To this day, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is the only non-president to have a national holiday dedicated in his honor.

How old would Dr. Martin Luther King be in 2024?

If Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were still alive in 2024, he would have turned 95 on Jan. 15.

When did Dr. Martin Luther King deliver his famous ‘I Have a Dream' speech?

King delivered his famous "I Have A Dream" speech during the March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963.

The march was organized in support of the Civil Rights Act, which made segregation, "Jim Crow Laws" and discrimination based on race, religion, gender or nationality illegal.


American Religious and Civil Rights leader Dr Martin Luther King Jr (1929 - 1968) gives his "I Have a Dream" speech to a crowd before the Lincoln Memorial during the Freedom March in Washington, DC, on August 28, 1963. The widely quoted speech became

When did Dr. Martin Luther King receive the Nobel Peace Prize?

Martin Luther King, Jr. was 35 years old when he became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. The committee said he was recognized "for his non-violent struggle for civil rights for the Afro-American population."

Why was Atlanta important to Martin Luther King, Jr.?

Martin Luther King, Jr. was born in Atlanta in 1929, but his family's deep roots in the state began long before.

King's maternal great-grandfather, Willis Williams is said to have joined Shiloh Baptist Church in Greene County, Georgia in 1846. He and his wife Lucrecia Daniel eventually gave birth to King's grandfather, Adam Daniel Williams.

On March 14, 1894, Adam Daniel Williams, who was a reverend, took over pastoral duties at Ebenezer Baptist Church on Airline Street in Atlanta. At the time, there were only 17 listed members. In his first year, 65 members joined, and he purchased land to build a new church on McGruder Street.

Due to growing membership, the McGruder Street building eventually proved to be too small. In 1900, Williams purchased Fifth Church on Bell and Gilmer Streets.

In 1903, Williams and his wife, Jennie Parks, gave birth to Alberta Christine Williams, King's mother. The family, now in Atlanta, continued transforming Ebenezer Baptist Church.

In 1914, the congregation moved to the basement of its current location. Throughout the years, construction and renovations would be done on the historic church as it grew into the prominent religious institution it is today.

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Ebenezer Baptist Church, the church of Martin Luther King, Jr. (Photo by Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)

King's father, Martin Luther King, Sr. served as an assistant pastor to Rev. Williams from 1927 to 1930. He became the pastor in 1931 when Williams died. His son, Martin, Jr., served as his co-pastor. He kept that position until he was assassinated in 1968.


SEP 21 1976, 9-27-1976 Rev. Martin Luther King Sr. - Indiv. Credit: Denver Post (Denver Post via Getty Images)

Besides drawing a deep connection to Atlanta through their religion, the King family was also drawn to its educational institutions.

King's maternal grandmother, Jennie Parks, took classes at Spelman Seminary when she was just 15.

In 1944, Martin Luther King, Jr. was accepted to Morehouse College as an early admission applicant, studying sociology. He was only 15, too.

Although King took his civil rights work around the world, Atlanta quickly became an epicenter of change. King's reputation influenced many Black Americans to view it as a place they could thrive culturally, socially, economically, and politically.


Coretta Scott King kisses her husband, Martin Luther King, Jr., in Montgomery, Alabama at the culmination of the Selma to Montgomery March, March 25th 1965. (Photo by Morton Broffman/Getty Images)

King was buried at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park. Soon after, Coretta Scott King established The King Center as "the official, living memorial dedicated to the advancement of the legacy" of her husband. They both sit right next to Ebenezer Baptist Church.

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ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 16:  A genral view of The Martin Luther King, Jr. Annual Commemorative Service at the MLK Center on January 16, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images)

The Sanford University's King Institute and National Park Service contributed to this history report.

When was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. assassinated?

King died on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee. He was shot at the Lorraine Motel. 

King's funeral was held in his hometown of Atlanta.

The King family, including Coretta until her death in 2006, has held the belief that the civil rights leader's assassination was part of a conspiracy involving the federal government and organized crime. In 1999, the King family filed a civil suit in which a Memphis jury ruled that governmental agencies were in fact parties to the conspiracy to harm him.

Still, it's widely believed that James Earl Ray was the assassin of Dr. King.

The complete transcript of the trial is available on the King Center's website.

MLK Day Commemorative Service 2023

Watch the full 54th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Commemorative Service from Ebenezer Baptist Church

MLK Day 2023 keynote speaker: Bryan Stevenson, Founder of Equal Justice Initiative