MTSU NAACP President, History Professor to Headline MLK Observance

MLK 2020 candlelight vigil
MTSU students and attendees hold their electronic candles during a moment of reflection during the 2020 Martin Luther King Jr. Day Candlelight Vigil hosted by Middle Tennessee State University in the Student Union Ballroom. This year’s MLK Celebration and Candlelight Vigil will be held starting at 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 16, in the ballroom, and open to the public. (MTSU file photo by Cat Curtis Murphy)

Middle Tennessee State University will observe the 27th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and a special evening ceremony and traditional candlelight vigil will be held in honor of the slain civil rights leader.

The special event, which is free and open to the public, will begin at 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 16, in the second floor ballroom of the Student Union, 1768 MTSU Blvd. The university will be closed that day in observance of the federal holiday.

Danielle Rochelle, director of Intercultural and Diversity Affairs at MTSU, said attendees will hear remarks from Paige Jackson, president of the NAACP MTSU chapter, the men of the Murfreesboro Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and Aaron Treadwell, assistant professor in the MTSU Department of History.

“This year’s MLK Celebration will focus on the legacy of Dr. King and what it means for our community moving forward,” Rochelle said, adding that King’s wife, Coretta Scott King, will also be honored.

Danny Kelley, assistant vice president for Student Affairs, said that “in light of the racial inequities that still exist in our great country, coming together on this special day reminds us of the contributions Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made toward social justice and the work still required of all of us to eliminate discrimination.”

Rochelle said the program will also include two tribute videos and a reading of the True Blue Pledge, which is celebrating its 11th anniversary, “to show MTSU’s commitment to diversity and nonviolence.” The event will end with an indoor candlelight vigil using LED candles.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who was inspired both by his Christian faith and by civil disobedience tactics employed by Indian leader Mohandas K. Gandhi, led marches and demonstrations that promoted the dissolution of legally enforced racial segregation in public accommodations. His work and that of his followers prompted Congress to pass the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

After speaking to sanitation workers who were striking for better wages and working conditions in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968, King was assassinated as he stood on the balcony of the city’s Lorraine Motel.

On Nov. 21, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed the law creating Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a national celebration of King’s birthday; the first observance was on Jan. 20, 1986. King was born Jan. 15, 1929. The holiday is celebrated on the third Monday in January each year.

The occasion is a Connection Point event for MTSU students. It also is held in collaboration with the National Panhellenic Council.

This marks the first in-person vigil since 2020, as the event was held virtually in 2021 due to the pandemic and the 2022 event was canceled due to inclement weather.

A campus parking map is available at

For more information, contact Rochelle at 615-898-2831 or email [email protected].