KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Celebrations and events commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are happening around East Tennessee this month. The holiday is Monday, Jan. 16.

In Knoxville, the Knoxville MLK Commission has been organizing special celebratory events since 1982. In Maryville, the Local MLK Celebration Planning Committee is hosting events. Other events throughout East Tennessee are also commemorating the late civil rights leader.

WATE 6 On Your Side Good Morning Tennessee Anchor Tearsa Smith is honored to emcee the leadership awards luncheon in Knoxville and appear as a keynote speaker at the business luncheon in Maryville.

The City of Knoxville states on its website that the weeklong celebration focuses on providing education and leadership training for adults and youth and promotes reconciliation through peaceful conflict resolution. Part of the celebration also includes stories of racial struggles with an emphasis on non-violence, equality, and love. 

The theme for 2023 is “Moving on Toward Freedom, Justice and Equality,” the city states, which is attributed to the Dream and the Dreamer MLK, Jr. who affirmed, “Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. And Justice is really love in calculation. Justice is love correcting that which revolts against love.”

Below is a list of events for MLK Week in East Tennessee:


In June, the Knoxville MLK Commission is also hosting an annual MLK Memorial Parade and Juneteenth Celebration.

  • January 19 – Muse Knoxville is collaborating with River & Rail Theatre Company for a special Once Upon a Muse storytelling series to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The event is at 5-7 p.m. Thursday and is free to the public (to capacity).


Events in Blount County are happening Jan. 13-16. This year’s theme, according to the Blount County MLK Celebration group, is “We Still Have a Dream!” Events will include the following –

  • January 13 – MLK Day Business Luncheon: WATE 6 On Your Side’s Tearsa Smith will be the keynote speaker at the annual MLK Day Business Luncheon, scheduled for noon, Jan. 13, at the Airport Hilton.
  • January 15 – Community Worship Service: The Rev. Vivian Hill, associate minister at Rest Haven Baptist Church, will lead the community worship service at St. John Missionary Baptist Church in Alcoa at 4 p.m., Jan. 15.
  • January 16 – MLK Day March: Rev. Dr. Willa Estell, pastor of St. Paul A.M.E. Zion Church in Maryville and president of the Alcoa Blount County NAACP chapter, will be the grand marshal for the annual MLK Day March. Marchers will assemble for it at 12:30 p.m., Jan. 16, at the Martin Luther King Community Center in Alcoa and walk to the Maryville College campus for the afternoon celebration.
  • January 16 – MLK Day Celebration: Alcoa native and Berea College Professor Emeritus the Rev. Andrew Baskin will be the keynote speaker for the 2023 MLK Day Celebration, scheduled for 2 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 16, in the Lambert Recital Hall of the Clayton Center for the Arts at Maryville College.


  • January 16 – A march celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day will take place in the downtown area on Monday. Portions of the following roads will be temporarily closed beginning at approximately 10 a.m. and ending by 11 a.m.:
    -Court Avenue, between Honey Lane and Commerce Street;
    -Bruce Street, between Court Avenue and the Courthouse parking lot; and
    -Commerce Street
  • January 16 – First Baptist Church of Sevierville invites the community to celebrate MLK Day on Monday, Jan. 16 with the event service beginning at 10 a.m. at 317 Parkway in Sevierville, TN 37862.
  • January 16 – Sevier County Public Library System will be closed for MLK Day.


  • January 16 – Green McAdoo Cultural Center says they are ready for its Martin Luther King Jr. Day Prayer Breakfast on Monday. If you are interested in joining them on Jan. 16, reserve your tickets here.  


  • January 16 – MLK Day Breakfast presented by the Morristown Task Force on Diversity at 9 a.m. in the First United Methodist Church. Keynote speaker Joan C. Browning, an original Freedom Rider will be there and awards for the MLK Art Contest and MLK Essay Contest will be presented during the breakfast. More information can be found here.

Pellissippi State MLK Day March

  • January 16 – Join Pellissippi State colleagues and students at the annual MLK Day March in Blount County. Participants will gather at 12:45 p.m. Monday, Jan. 16, at the MLK Community Center, 209 East Franklin Street, Alcoa, to march to Maryville College. Event details here.

Editor’s Note: This story will be updated with additional information.