Mark Your Calendars

Date: Wednesday, January 24, 2024
Time: Reception and Artist Showcase: 5:45 p.m.
           Keynote: 7-8:30 p.m.
Location: Reynolds Alumni Center
                  University of Missouri
                  700 Conley Avenue

Limited in-person seating. Register today to reserve your seat.

Unable to join us in person? Watch the keynote livestream.

2024 Keynote Speaker: Joyce Ladner, Ph.D.

Dr. Joyce Ladner

The University of Missouri is pleased to announce Joyce Ladner as the 2024 keynote speaker for the annual MLK Day of Celebration. 

Ladner was a professor of sociology, provost and interim president at Howard University from 1994 to 1995She was appointed by President Bill Clinton in1995 to the District of Columbia Financial Control Board to balance the city’s budget after it became bankruptShe was also a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution.  

A native of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, she began her fight for social justice as a teenager when she helped organize an NAACP Youth Chapter in her hometown. She was expelled from Jackson State College in 1961 for organizing a civil rights protest.   

Ladner was on the front lines of most of the major civil rights protests in the ’60s including Greenwood, Birmingham, Albany, Georgia, Selma and Jackson. As a field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), she was mentored by civil rights pioneers Fannie Lou Hamer and Ella Baker. She worked with slain civil rights leaders Medgar Evers, Vernon Dahmer and two of the three civil rights workers, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner, who were murdered during Mississippi Freedom Summer.   

She was on the 12-person staff that organized the March on Washington in 1963 under the direction of Bayard Rustin and A. Phillip Randolph in Harlem. She was on the stage when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have A Dream” speech. She also is portrayed in the 2023 movie “Rustin” as a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. 

Ladner earned a B.A. from Tougaloo College (1964) and a Ph.D. from Washington University in St. Louis (1968). 

2024 Theme

Women and the Civil Right Movement

Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability but comes through continuous struggle.” –  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

2024 Celebration

Reception and Artist Showcase:
5:45-6:45 p.m.

Reception featuring an art exhibit by University of Missouri student organization Mizzou Black Creatives and Orr Street Studios is free and open to the public, in-person only.

Keynote presentation:
7 p.m.

  1. Opening Remarks
  2. Vocal Performance – Symonne Sparks
  3. Performing Arts – Lincoln University Dance Troupe
  4. Community Award presentation
  5. Keynote by Joyce Ladner, Ph.D.
  6. Moderated Q & A 
  7. Closing Remarks
  8. Vocal Performance – Symonne Sparks

MLK Community Award Details

Established in 2007, the University of Missouri Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award recognizes and affirms those in the Columbia community who have made significant tangible contributions in the areas of race relations, social justice and human rights. 

Each year, the planning committee reviews submissions for a Boone County resident or group to receive this award in recognition of extraordinary leadership and inspiration in furthering the goal of achieving greater cultural and ethnic diversity in the community. The award will be presented during the annual campus celebration commemorating Dr. King each January. 


Those who have exhibited extraordinary leadership in one or more of the following areas are eligible for this award: 

  • Both individuals and advocacy groups may be nominated, but nominees must be residents of Columbia or Boone County. 
  • Nominees must not include MU faculty and staff. 
  • Nominees should be an individual who or organization that has made significant contributions in building a sense of unity among Columbia citizens. 
  • Nominees must work in the area of promotion and developing a mutual respect, understanding and appreciation for the cultural and ethnic diversity within our local and extended community (outside the university academic community). 
  • Nominees should have demonstrated ability in building local communities through various activities and programs that help to revitalize areas and make Columbia a more wholesome and desirable place for living, learning and loving. 
  • Nominees should have been personally or corporately involved in making tangible, visible, and meaningful contributions to the advancement of race relations, social justice, and/or human rights causes. 
  • In recognizing the personal commitment and example that Dr. King stressed and discussed in his speeches for academic achievement, nominees should have demonstrated a personal commitment to scholarship and/or attainment of educational goals despite significant barriers or obstacles (learning disabilities, poverty, etc.). Dr. King was known to challenge his followers to pursue excellence through a commitment to life-long learning. This dream still exists and nominees should demonstrate this desire. 
  • Nominees should demonstrate specific accomplishments in reducing barriers that have hindered under served groups from attaining academic excellence. Specific activities or accomplishments could include, but are not limited to, mentoring, tutoring, innovative pre-school programs, highly effective pre-college programs, provision of scholarships, etc. Special consideration will be given to the nominees who provide children access to the tools of technology and incorporate effective parental involvement. 

The heart of the award is to recognize individuals who give their time and service freely to those in need without question, often without recognition. This award seeks to honor those who promote Dr. King’s legacy and attempt to make a difference in the lives of others through selfless service. Winners should stand as role models for others to emulate.  

Past MLK Award Winners 

  • Eliot Battle 
  • Almeta Crayton 
  • Reverend Raymond Hayes 
  • Pamela Ingram 
  • Michael Middleton 
  • Minority Men’s Network 
  • West Boulevard Elementary School 
  • Nora Stewart Memorial Nursery School 
  • Camren D. Cross 
  • Columbia African American Association 
  • BOLD (Black + Brown Opportunity Leadership Development) Academy 
  • City of Refuge 
  • Worley Street Roundtable 
  • Jabberwocky Studios 
  • Eryca Neville

Nominations will be accepted through Friday, Jan. 5.

MLK Planning Committee

The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. commemorative committee is composed of University of Missouri faculty, staff, undergraduate and graduate students, and Columbia community representatives. We seek to engage our students, campus and greater community in interaction that is positive, educational and entertaining. For further inquiries, please email us at