Passionate About Boston
and the Moms Who Live Here

Commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Boston

martin luther king jr - boston moms blog

Much of our knowledge and memories of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. surround Washington, D.C., where he gave his impassioned and unforgettable “I Have a Dream” speech; Georgia, where he grew up and attended Morehouse College; or Alabama, where he led his significant works for racial and social class justice.

It wasn’t until I moved to Boston over a decade ago that I realized Boston was a large part of King’s life — he earned his doctorate at Boston University, ministered in the area, and met his wife Coretta here.

Given that you can walk the same streets one of America’s key civil rights figures walked on a daily basis, our MLK Days shouldn’t be filled with malls and indoor play places. No matter your children’s ages, you can build some recognition of Dr. King into this day. There are many events in the Boston area to attend with your children. If those do not work for your family, include a book on Dr. King into your family’s reading list — we’ve even included some suggestions below!

As the years pass and we continue to lose the generation that was alive during the fight for civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s, it is our responsibility to teach our families why days like Dr. King’s birthdate are important. Being intentional on how we spend this day with our children will shape their recognition of his importance in history.


Day of Service for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Appropriate for all ages
Monday, January 15
9:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.
Melrose Unitarian Universalist Church :: 70 W. Emerson St., Melrose

Explore and help the Melrose community in this day of service. Both kid-friendly and adult-friendly volunteer and educational opportunities will be available, and a pizza lunch will be served afterward.

Many Helping Hands MLK Day of Service 2018
Appropriate for all ages
Monday, January 15
2–5 p.m.
Cambridge City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge

The eighth annual Cambridge Day of Service, organized by Many Helping Hands 365, to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is free and open to the public. All ages are welcome to help with hands-on crafts projects that benefit children, teens, and adults in need. Make fleece scarves and blankets for homeless children and adults. Make Valentines for elders and veterans. Sort food, winter clothing, books, and toiletries for people in need. Feel free to bring a can of food, gently used winter clothing, or a children’s book for someone in need.

City of Boston’s Day of Celebration in Honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Appropriate for 10 and up
Monday, January 15
10:30 a.m.
Metcalf Ballroom, George Sherman Union, Boston University, 775 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston

For the first time, the City of Boston is holding its event on the Boston University campus. It will feature music from the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra and remarks from Mayor Marty Walsh and Beverly Morgan-Welch from the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Admission is free.

Words Beyond the Dream: Boston University’s MLK Day Commemoration
Appropriate for 12 and up
Monday, January 15
2 p.m.
Metcalf Ballroom, George Sherman Union, Boston University, 775 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston

This is the event I’ve helped plan for the last 11 years. BU has suspended classes and held an event honoring Dr. King since 1972, predating the national holiday by 14 years. This year’s event features two nationally known poets, four BU musical groups, and students reading the lesser known words of Dr. King. Admission is free.

MLK Open House at the Museum of Fine Arts
Appropriate for all ages
Monday, January 15
10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Avenue, Boston

The MFA offers free admission and a variety of special events on MLK Day. For 16 years, Citizens Bank has sponsored the day, so all who wish to visit the MFA and partake in their commemoration can. A variety of activities and performances are available for all ages, from teen scavenger hunts to relevant crafts for younger kids.

Museum of African-American History
Appropriate for 7 and up
46 Joy Street, Boston

If you cannot attend an event on MLK Day, the Museum of African American History in Beacon Hill is open Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.–4 p.m. The museum is made up of the African Meeting House and Abiel Smith School (a public school established in 1835), which are restored to what they looked like in 1855. Admission: $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and students, and free for children 12 and under


Not every child is ready to attend an event to commemorate MLK Day. If that is the case, here are some highly recommended books from educators on Dr. King.

Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport

This book has won multiple awards and is a great introduction to Dr. King’s speeches. Many teachers I know use this book in their classrooms.



My Daddy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Martin Luther King III

Newly in paperback, Dr. King’s son presents some of his memories of his father’s legacy. It places the civil rights fight in a children’s context, presenting how segregation impacted their every day (for example, the younger King and his siblings couldn’t go to a certain park.)


I Am: Martin Luther King, Jr. by Grace Norwich

For those of you with eager self-readers, this is a well-rounded chapter book introduction to Dr. King’s life. The book’s auxiliary material (timelines and lists) gives children facts to remember and discuss later on.

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