Recognition of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthdate has been a tradition at the University of Iowa since 1969, and the national holiday has been observed through human rights programs since its inception in 1986. In 1990 the University initiated the Human Rights convocation program. Afternoon classes were canceled to encourage student, faculty, and staff participation in programs that encourage dialogue about diversity and reinforce the principle that the University is a forum for the free exchange of ideas. The convocation has been an opportunity for serious thinking by all of us about issues of social justice, human rights, and world peace.

An official University holiday was designated in 1995 to provide an opportunity to engage the University community in a discussion of the human values that the King holiday epitomizes. These initial events have grown into a campus-wide celebration that engages faculty, staff, students and community members to give lectures, discussions, and cultural arts presentations. All events are free and open to the public.

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Press Kit

Do you like the MLK design this year? If you can't access the printed copies on campus, please feel free to download and print off our 2017 designs. 

2017 MLK Poster

Day Of Service

2017 Day of Service: Monday, January 16

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For more information on the 2017 Day of Service food/item drive, view the MLK Day of Service event.


Mightier than the Sword

Date & Time: 10:00 AM–4:00 PM
Cost: $5

Come see our latest exhibit “Mightier Than The Sword.”

“Mightier Than the Sword” examines the history and evolution of African American literature from the 18th century to the present - from autobiographical slave narratives to the creative explosion of the Harlem Renaissance and from the Black Arts Movement to modern-day authors, poets, and playwrights. The exhibit will feature influential black authors and examine the role literature has played in shaping public opinion on political and cultural issues. “Mightier Than the Sword” will be on display through July 29, 2017

"Why Place Matters" Film Screening and Discussion

Date & Time: 12:30 PM–1:30 PM
Location: Ellig Classroom (N120) – College of Public Health Building

All are invited to view the short documentary "Why Place Matters," part of the "Unnatural Causes" series that explores racial and socioeconomic inequalities in health. A panel discussion will follow.

This event is part of the College of Public Health's MLK Jr. Celebration of Human Rights.

Martin Luther King Jr. Research Symposium

Date & Time: 9:00 AM–2:00 PM
Location: Jones Commons, N300 – Lindquist Center
Cost: Free

The College of Education Diversity Committee hosts the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Research Symposium to showcase graduate and undergraduate research projects (at all stages) related to diversity.  The poster session highlights issues of diversity, including (but not limited to): race, national origin, color, creed, religion, sex, age, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, mental illness, class differences, and special populations in education. The poster session is followed by a ceremony featuring a keynote address and the top three poster awardees.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa–sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact Lianne Gann in advance at education-diversity@uiowa.edu.

MLK Speaker: Professor Jelani Jefferson Exum on "What's Beyond the Mountaintop?: Working Toward Justice in Sentencing"

Date & Time: 2:00 PM–3:00 PM
Location: Room 225 – Boyd Law Building

Jelani Jefferson Exum joined the University of Toledo College of Law faculty, with tenure, in 2011. She is a graduate of Harvard Law School and graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College. Prior to joining the UT Law faculty, she was an associate professor at the University of Kansas School of Law and a visiting associate professor at the University of Michigan Law School.  She teaches Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Comparative Criminal Procedure, Federal Sentencing, and Race and American Law. Professor Exum mainly writes in the area of sentencing law and policy, but her research interests also include comparative criminal law and procedure and the impact of race on criminal justice.

MLK Day of Service 2017

Date & Time: 12:00 AM
Location: – Iowa Memorial Union (IMU)
Cost: Free

NEW EVENT DATE: Saturday, February 18th

Register for this new event date.


Make sure you're on campus for the MLK Day of Service! Join other UI students, faculty, staff and the Iowa City community for a day of service in celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Service locations include HyVee, Ronald McDonald House, Crisis Center, and more! 

Shifts from 8am-12:30pm & 3pm-6pm

Breakfast and welcome at the IMU 2nd floor Ballroom at 8am

This event is Advantage Iowa approved.

Participating Agencies Include...

  • Shelter House Community Shelter & Transition Services
  • The Crisis Center of Johnson County (Food Bank)
  • United Way of Johnson & Washington Counties

Needed Items Include...

Crisis Center

  • Canned fruit and 100 percent fruit juice
  • Peanut butter and canned meals
  • Pasta and rice
  • Hearty soups and stews
  • Canned vegetables
  • Toilet paper
  • Baby formula
  • Baby diapers
  • Laundry detergent
  • Other non-perishable food items

Shelter House

  • Over-the-counter medications:
  • Acid reducer
  • Blankets (sizes twin and full)
  • Deodorant
  • Laundry detergent
  • Adult diapers (small and medium)
  • Diapers (size 5 and up)
  • Hotel/sample sizes of shampoo, conditioner, and lotion
  • Facial Tissue
  • Ear plugs




This gallery archives the quotes and artwork showcased in the University of Iowa's Martin Luther King, Jr's Celebration of Human Rights Week in years past.

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