The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) will celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Monday, Jan. 17) by displaying Martin Luther King Jr.’s original speech from the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The case containing the speech, which was initially on display in fall 2021, will be reinstalled just in time for visitors to view the historic document ahead of this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. It will be on view in the “Defending Freedom, Defining Freedom” gallery from Jan. 13 to Feb. 27.
In observance of the holiday, the museum will be open to the public for normal operating hours (10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.). Advanced and same-day free timed-entry passes are available online. No walk-ups will be permitted. Alongside the speech will be other objects associated with King, including the Congressional Gold Medal awarded posthumously to him and Coretta Scott King in 2014, a laundry pail used by King during the march from Selma to Montgomery, and a program from his funeral at the Ebenezer Baptist Church.
King’s speech was originally in possession of Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame player and coach George Raveling, who came in receipt of the artifact while volunteering at the 1963 March on Washington. Recently, Villanova University became the speech’s steward and has entered into a long-term loan agreement with the museum to display it.
In addition to displaying King’s speech, the museum has two virtual offerings that give visitors opportunities to celebrate the holiday from the comfort of their homes, including a blog post highlighting little-known facts about King.
January Virtual Programming Schedule
Passing: A Film Discussion with Director/Writer Rebecca Hall and Actresses Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga
Thursday, Jan. 13; 7 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. ET
For its first public program of 2022, NMAAHC will have a virtual discussion with Rebecca Hall, screenwriter and director of Netflix’s film Passing, alongside actresses Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga. As Hall’s directorial debut, Passing is based on Nella Larsen’s novel of the same name. In addition to issues about race, it raises issues about other types of passing through the lens of class and desire. The story takes place in the early 20th century from the perspective of two childhood friends who have grown in two separate worlds: one a Black woman in upper-middle-class Harlem and another visiting from upper-class Chicago who is passing as white. The film explores not just racial identity but gender, class, the responsibilities of motherhood and the performance of femininity from the perspective of two Black women who choose to live on opposite sides of the color line in 1929 New York. For Hall, Passing was a deeply personal journey, stemming from the discovery of her own family history. NMAAHC Curator Aaron Bryant will moderate the discussion. This program will be pre-recorded, and there will be no live Q&A. Registration is recommended.
History Alive! Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.: The Last Five Years
Mondays, Jan. 17 and 24; 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. ET
Reenactor John W. McCaskill brings his History Alive! program to the National Museum of History and Culture to virtually celebrate this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day. During the History Alive! virtual public program, McCaskill will tell the stories of individuals that fought to end racial segregation in the southern United States and discrimination against African Americans. This month’s program celebrates King’s legacy and chronicles several key events during the last five years of his life. This program is free, but registration is required.