MLK Jr. 56th death anniversary: Events planned to remember Martin Luther King Jr.

Members of the King family gathered on Thursday morning to mark the 56th anniversary of the death of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. with a wreath-laying ceremony.

It happened at the crypt at The King Center Freedom Plaza on Auburn Avenue where Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King are interred. Mrs. King died in 2006. 

The ceremony was led by Rev. Bernice King, CEO of the King Center.

Dr Martin Luther King Jr speaking before crowd of 25,000 Selma To Montgomery, Alabama civil rights marchers, in front of Montgomery, Alabama state capital building. On March 25, 1965 in Montgomery, Alabama. (Photo by Stephen F. Somerstein/Getty Image

At 5:30 p.m. Thursday, the National Park Service will hold a candlelight observance and wreath-laying ceremony at the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church Sanctuary, 407 Auburn Ave. The wreath will be placed in front of the church, and a bell will toll 56 times in honor of King, who was baptized at the church and preached at Ebenezer before his funeral was held there on April 9, 1968.

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Portrait of Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.(1929  - 1968)at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on July 19, 1962.(Photo by Consolidated News Pictures/Getty Images)

Visitors to the National Historical Park's Visitor Center on Auburn Avenue will be invited to "pause and reflect on the profound impact of Dr. King’s legacy" through April 9.

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Additionally, visitors will "step back in time and experience the solemnity of the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church Sanctuary" while listening to recordings of King's final sermons. The funeral for Dr. King was held on April 9.  

Dr. King, who was a Christian minister, activist and political philosopher, was shot at 6:05 p.m. April 4, 1968, while standing on a balcony outside his second-floor room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. He was rushed to St. Joseph's Hospital and died at 7:05 p.m. King was in Memphis to support African-American sanitation workers for the City of Memphis who were on strike.

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His assassination was one of four major assassinations of the 1960s in the United States, following the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963, the assassination of Malcom X in 1965 and two months before the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy in June 1968. 

White House on anniversary of King's assassination

President Joe Biden released a statement on the 56th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

"Fifty-six years ago today, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his last breath in the cause to redeem the soul of our nation. He was in Memphis to march with sanitation workers rightly demanding safer working conditions, fairer wages, and basic dignity as part of the larger quest to make real the promise of America for all Americans. 

"But then, an extremist – armed with a rifle in his hands and fueled by the poison of white supremacy in his heart – shot and killed a great American who loved his country so deeply to make it better – even greater – even when it didn’t always love him back. Dr. King and generations of foot soldiers known and unknown embody a patriotism that continues to inspire generations of Americans, including me. 

"Dr. King is one of my political heroes. I was just out of law school when my hometown of Wilmington, Delaware was among the many cities engulfed in turmoil in the wake of his assassination. His unfinished mission inspired me to leave a prestigious law firm to become a public defender and begin a career in public service. 

"Since then, I’ve seen the push and pull and progress and setback on everything he stood for from voting rights to jobs and justice for all Americans. I’ve had the greatest honor to serve as Vice President to the first Black President and now President with the first woman Vice President, as we carry forward his vision of a beloved community. 

"But on this day, and in this time, we all do well to remember another essential lesson about Dr. King’s life and legacy. All Americans – regardless of party or background – should be able to reject political violence and hate-fueled violence in any form. We must condemn it, not condone it. We must confront it, not whitewash it. As we do, we must teach history and make history, not erase history. We must choose community over chaos. 

"Jill and I send our love to the entire King family. We especially keep in our hearts the legacy of Mrs. Coretta Scott King, who we all miss dearly and who did so much in her own right to redeem the soul of our nation. 

"May God bless Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr."