Annual MLK Celebration

The MIT community gathers every February to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The Institute began its annual celebration of Dr. King Jr. in 1975 with memorial activities and lectures by prominent speakers, including a keynote address by Coretta Scott King in 1994. Martin Luther King Day was designated an Institute holiday in 1976, a decade before its first official observance as a federal holiday.

Hosted by MIT President Sally Kornbluth, these celebrations feature remarks from MIT leadership, from each of the recipients of that year’s MLK Leadership Awards, from a staff speaker nominated by the community, and from a keynote speaker who is a prominent leader, nationally or in the local community, in accordance with Dr. King’s dual emphasis on global and local issues.

Dr. Angela Davis speaking at the 2023 celebration. “We need to renew our commitments to struggle against racism”

Previous MLK Annual Celebrations

YearPast keynote speakers
2024Dr. Janet Moses; civil rights activist, physician , and co-founder (with her husband, Robert Moses) of the Algebra Project.VIDEO, ARTICLE
2023Dr. Angela Davis; feminist political activist, philosopher, academic, and author.VIDEO, ARTICLE
2022Eddie S. Glaude Jr.; educator, author, political commentator, and public intellectual.VIDEO, ARTICLE
2021Ijeoma Oluo; writer, speaker, internet yeller. “What we are fighting for is Black Joy.”VIDEOARTICLE
2020Kevin Richardson, one of the Central Park Five: Speak Up, Have Courage, Confront InjusticeVIDEOARTICLE
2019Rahsaan Hall of the ACLU’s Massachusetts branch: America’s bank of justice is overdrawn but not bankruptVIDEOARTICLE
2018Wade Davis: Sustaining the struggle for equity: Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhereVIDEOARTICLE
2017Aprille Joy Ericsson: Discrimination affects us allVIDEO, ARTICLE
2016Freeman A. Hrabowski, III: Truth & Power, Students Leading for ChangeVIDEOARTICLE
2015Hosted by President Rafael Reif (keynote speaker Rinku Sen was unable to attend): iActivism Individuals Empowering the CollectiveARTICLE, POSTER
2014Michael Eric Dyson: Should human rights be determined at the ballot box?
2013Paula Williams Madison: Illuminating the Elements of Meritocracy.
2012Richard Tapia: Expanding the Possible
2011Roland Martin: Excellence is a Shared Path: Working Together for Justice and the Quality of Life
2010Gerry Hudson: Deploying Our Gifts for the Betterment of Humankind: What would Dr. King say about us?
2009Johnetta Cole: Yes We Must: Achieve Diversity Through Leadership
2008Johnnetta Cole: Ensuring Educational Access: Our Challenge, Our Opportunity Ray Hammond
2007Ted Childs, Jr.: Maximizing Potential: The Congruence of Diversity and Excellence
2006Donna Brazile: Dr. King’s Unfinished Agenda: A Call for Economic & Social Justice in the 21st Century
2005Gwen Ifill: Justice and Equality for All: America’s Moral Dilemma
2004Julianne Malveaux: Rhetoric or Reality: Civil Right Under Seige
2003Julian Bond: Faces at the Bottom of the Well: Nightmare of Reality vs. Dr. King’s Dream
2002Tavis Smiley: From Dreams to Reality: The Illusion of Full Inclusion
2001Lani Guinier: Confronting the Gap: Building and Sustaining Inclusion
2000Shirley Ann Jackson: Engineering Bold Leadership for the 21st Century: A Blueprint for Full Participation in Academia, Government and Industry
1999Kweisi Mfume: Teaching and Learning: The Key to Full Inclusion
1996Dr. Julius L. Chambers: With Liberty and Justice for All

MIT’s 50th annual MLK celebration.

The celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., ran February 5 – 17, 2024 with a series of activities highlighting the year’s theme:

“We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character; that is the goal of true education.”

– Martin Luther King Jr., “The Purpose of Education”

Schedule of events:

Monday, February 5, 2024
Boston’s Black Business
11:30am – 1:30pm
The Foundry, Cambridge

Wednesday, February 7, 2024
Embracing the Promise of a Rising Cambridge and Boston
5:30 – 7:45pm
The Foundry, Cambridge

Vendor’s Market
Wednesday, February 14, 2024
4:30pm – 6:30pm
Stata Center (Building 32) – Student Street
More information about these local vendors.

Leadership Awards Reception
Thursday, February 15, 2024
5:00pm – 7:30pm
Samberg Conference Center (E52) – 6th floor

Celebration Gala
Saturday, February 17, 2024
6:00pm – 12:00am
Boston Marriott Cambridge

Art Contest
The annual MLK Inspired Art & Performance Contest is open to MIT undergraduate and graduate students, staff, post-docs and faculty.

50th Anniversary Quilt Project
Create a square to the community quilt, a visual tribute to MLK’s legacy and MIT’s diversity!