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UT students, faculty, and staff march in Knoxville's Martin Luther King Jr. Parade in 2020.

Each year, Martin Luther King Jr. Day presents an opportunity for members of the Volunteer family to reflect, connect in community, and take action as the nation celebrates the life and legacy of one of history’s greatest advocates for racial equality and leader of the American Civil Rights Movement. The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, will host and co-sponsor a series of events to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. throughout January and into the start of the spring semester.

“We are always moved to celebrate the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” said Tyvi Small, vice chancellor for diversity and engagement. “As we reflect on the impact he has made on our world, I am reminded that our collective work honoring the dignity of all continues. As Volunteers, each of us has an important role in ensuring we lead in our community with respect and compassion.”

This year’s celebrations invite participants from the UT community:

  • On Monday, January 17, Knoxville’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Commission will host the 40th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Parade. UT has a registered group and encourages all students, faculty, and staff to come out and show their Volunteer spirit. The route will run from Chilhowee Park’s Midway Entrance on North Beaman Street to Overcoming Believers Church on Harriet Tubman Street. Registration and lineup will begin at 8:30 a.m. at Chilhowee Park, 3300 East Magnolia Avenue, and step-off is at 10 a.m.
  • On Wednesday, January 26, the Office of Multicultural Student Life in collaboration with the Black Cultural Programming Committee will host the 36th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration at 7 p.m. in the Alumni Memorial Building Cox Auditorium. Bakari Sellers, a CNN political analyst and former representative from South Carolina, will serve as the keynote speaker.
  • In addition to MLK Day celebrations, UT’s Jones Center for Leadership and Service will host its annual MLK Jr. Days of Service January 31 through February 11. Students, faculty, and staff can sign up in small groups to volunteer in the greater Knoxville area over the two-week period. Historically this event has been held in one day, but given the circumstances surrounding COVID-19, service opportunities are spread out to better serve students and the community. Morning and afternoon sessions are available, and each small group will be accompanied by a Jones Center ambassador who will lead reflection and help participants understand the greater impact of the work accomplished. Registration will open later in January.

UT is also honored to partner with the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Commission on keynote events including the MLK Leadership Educational Symposium featuring community leaders and university experts discussing a range of social justice topics as well as the Business Leadership Awards Luncheon, honoring local business leaders who have made a difference in the community. Both events were held on Thursday, January 13, in the Student Union.


Maddie Stephens (865-974-3993,