For more than three decades, the day celebrating Dr. King’s birthday and the legacy of his movement work have been honored by a procession through the city where he met his end. Dr. Isaac Richmond has helped organize the march throughout the years and though the route has changed over time, it continues to attract the people that King directed his work toward.

On this cold January morning, the gathering is at Auction Park on North Main Street. A few hundred gathered listen to union leaders and clergy speak about King’s work in a modern context. Then they line up, the black and gold “King Parade” sign held up by community elders and leaders who have been threading the streets of Memphis every January for years.

Brothers from King’s own fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, line up tightly behind the front line. Pickup truck speakers blast Stevie Wonder’s “Happy Birthday,” written for King in 1980 as a part of the campaign to make his day of birth a national holiday.

The pavement is icy so people move cautiously along the route to the National Civil Rights Museum. Food vendors line the street in front of the Lorraine Motel and performers fill the plaza of people waiting in line to see the museum with music. By the museum’s count, about 7,000 people made the trip to see the exhibits about the Civil Rights movement at the site of King’s assassination.

Below are scenes from the day.

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