We honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the 50th anniversary of his assassination.

Rare film, wreath-laying mark 51st anniversary of King’s death

Civil rights leader died April 4, 1968

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.

RELATED: Follow The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s exhaustive coverage of King’s life and legacy 

FILE - In this April 3, 1968 file photo, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. stands with other civil rights leaders on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn., a day before he was assassinated at approximately the same place. From left are Hosea Williams, Jesse Jackson, King, and Ralph Abernathy. King is one of America’s most famous victims of gun violence. Just as guns were a complicated issue for King in his lifetime, they loom large over the 30th anniversary of the holiday honoring his birthday. (AP Photo/Charles Kelly, File)
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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.

RELATED: When King dodged death 

The Rev. Bernice King, right, daughter of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., stands under a statue paying tribute to her father, after it’s unveiled on the state Capitol grounds in Atlanta, Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. The statue’s unveiling Monday came more than three years after Georgia lawmakers endorsed the project. A replica of the nation’s Liberty Bell tolled three times before the 8-foot (2.44-meter) bronze statue was unveiled on the 54th anniversary of King’s “I have a dream” speech at the march on Washington. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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.

RELATED: The final days of Martin Luther King 

The original movie poster for the 1970 theatrical showing of “King: A Filmed Record … Montgomery To Memphis.”
Photo: (Courtesy AMC Theatres)

“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.”

RELATED: Atlanta’s 4-mile goodbye to King

The Crypt where Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King reside on the grounds of the King Center in downtown Atlanta. (AP Photo/Beth J. Harpaz)

Photo: Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. 

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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