MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Tennessee's National Civil Rights Museum and the University of Memphis are planning a two-day symposium about civil rights and economic equality on the 50th anniversary of the killing of Martin Luther King Jr., with former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder scheduled as a keynote speaker.
The museum and the university said Wednesday that the symposium is scheduled to take place on April 2-3, 2018. It will end with a ceremony on April 4 to commemorate the anniversary of the assassination of King, who was shot while standing on the balcony of the old Lorraine Motel in 1968.
The theme for the event is based on King's final book, "Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?" Topics to be covered by speakers and panelists include criminal justice, voting rights, poverty and activism.
"We intend to initiate thought-provoking dialogue that will address several of the issues that Dr. King felt were yet to be accomplished — economic equity, access to quality education and employment — with justice as a common thread and underlying principle," museum president Terri Lee Freeman said in a statement.
Holder, the U.S.'s first black attorney general, will be the keynote speaker on the first day of the symposium. He served under President Barack Obama. Also scheduled to speak is Taylor Branch, an author and historian who wrote books about King.
Speeches, panel discussions and luncheons will be held at the law school, the Peabody Hotel and the museum, which is located at the site of the former Lorraine Motel.
King was staying at the hotel while visiting Memphis in support of a strike by sanitation workers who were seeking better working conditions, higher pay and more benefits. He was also in the midst of organizing his "Poor People's Campaign" when he was killed.
"Many issues that Dr. King worked on during his lifetime still need solutions, and those solutions are going to be, at least in part, legal solutions," Peter Letsou, dean of the University of Memphis School of Law, said in a phone interview. "Our goal here is to bring together academics and ultimately to try to craft a blueprint that's going to allow us to move forward in the next 50 years to deal with some of these persistent problems."