It was at about 6 p.m. on April 4, 1968 when Martin Luther King Jr. stepped out onto the balcony of Memphis’ Lorraine Motel and was gunned down by a sniper.
And it’s around that time, more than a half century later, that multitudes around the nation will commemorate the death of the world’s preeminent civil rights leader.
At 6 p.m. Thursday, thousands of people are expected to gather at 100 AMC Theatres across the country for a free screening of a documentary that has been shown only once before.
At roughly the same time, 6:01 p.m., the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site will culminate its King Remembrance Day with the laying of a wreath at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church. The park’s commemorative program will begin at 5:15 p.m., in the church.
In addition, free tours of the birth home of King will take place on Thursday from 10 a.m. until noon and from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m.
Special tours of the birth home also will be offered on Saturday and on April 9, which is the anniversary of King’s funeral.
A ranger will meet visitors interested in the tour at the front steps of the home, located at 501 Auburn Ave.
“We encourage the visitor to silently walk through the birth home of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and explore the community and family life that guided and nurtured this future civil rights leader,” said Park Superintendent Judy Forte.
Forte added that, from Thursday until April 9, the 15-minute film, “The Last Days of King,” will play throughout the day in the Visitor Center Theater.
A film that will be shown at AMC Theatres is a bit more substantial, clocking in a three hours.
“King: A Filmed Record … Montgomery To Memphis” is a 1970 documentary that uses original newsreel and other primary material to track King’s matriculation as a civil rights leader from the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott to his killing in Memphis.
Bernice King, the CEO of the King Center and youngest daughter of Martin and Coretta Scott King, called the film “inspirational and instructive” against today’s racial and cultural backdrop.
“I think it is critical, especially at this time,” King said. “It is probably one of the most accurate documentaries that I know of around the Civil Rights Movement from the beginning to end. It really brings to life that struggle of love against hate.”
The film was shown only one time in theaters, on March 24, 1970, but was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Feature documentary. It lost to “Woodstock.”
In 1999, the film was deemed “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant” by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in its National Film Registry.
In the Atlanta area, the documentary will be shown at AMC Colonial 18 and AMC Sugarloaf Mills 18, both in Lawrenceville; AMC Southlake Pavilion 24 in Morrow; and AMC Phipps Plaza 14 in Buckhead.
To reserve an advanced ticket, or to see where the movie is playing nationwide, click here.
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