Every third Monday in January, people from all walks of life come together in the Roanoke Region in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains to celebrate the legacy and teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. There is no shortage of ways to honor Dr. King in moving and meaningful ways in and around Roanoke. 

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Bridge and Statue

Martin Luther King Jr. Statue - Roanoke, VA 

A powerful way to celebrate the life of Dr. King is by visiting the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Bridge and Statue in Downtown Roanoke. At one time, this location was a symbol of segregation, as it marked the dividing point between downtown and the Gainsboro neighborhood.

Today, at 7 feet tall, this captivating statue is an inspiring reminder of our region's profound African-American legacy and history. As you contemplate Dr King's tremendous impact on the Civil Rights Movement and his lasting influence, find this great man's quotes on the statue and bridge and read them aloud. 

A Day of Service 

While many people have the day off, Martin Luther King Day is the single federal holiday Congress designates as a "National Day of Service." It is "a day on, not a day off," where we can follow Dr. King's example through volunteerism and affecting positive change in our community. So contact a Virginia Blue Ridge non-profit or other community service-oriented organization close to your heart and inquire about volunteer opportunities. It's hard to imagine a better way to celebrate Dr. King than emulating his example. 

Study VBR’s Distinguished Figures of Black History

Booker T. Washington National Monument

The history of Virginia's Blue Ridge holds a long list of figures of Black history who changed our communities and nation for the better. While you're meditating on the work of Dr. King, add to the day's significance by learning about notable figures of Black history in Virginia's Blue Ridge. You'll find Henrietta Lacks, Booker T. Washington, Virginia Y. Lee, Lucy Addison, and Oliver White Hill among the iconic names.

For an immersive experience you can do from anywhere in the world, explore the Hidden In Plain Site Experience. This self-guided virtual reality tour tells the tale of overlooked sites that share the story of Black history and the Black experience in Roanoke. 

Roanoke’s Black History & Culture

Harrison Museum of African American Culture - Roanoke, VA

Check out our Virginia's Blue Ridge - 3-Day Itinerary of Black History & Culture and fit in as many stops as possible to honor Dr. King. Embark on a self-guided tour of Roanoke's Historic Gainsboro neighborhood, once known as "Roanoke's Black Wall Street," as it featured numerous Black-owned businesses, hotels, schools, medical offices, and more. 

Or, take a similar self-guided tour, but on two wheels, through RIDE Solutions. Pedal through Roanoke's West End & Historic Gainsboro neighborhoods, where you'll discover several noteworthy Black history locations.

While strolling around town, visit the Henrietta Lacks Statue and Plaza in Downtown Roanoke. This beautifully crafted monument honors the life and enduring legacy of Henrietta Lacks, whose contributions to medical science have touched countless lives.

Stop by the Nipsey Hussle mural featuring Nipsey’s quote, “The highest human act is to inspire,” which rings true every day but feels significantly amplified on this holiday.

Head to nearby Hardy to visit the Booker T. Washington National Monument at 12130 Booker T. Washington Highway. The monument resides on a portion of the tobacco farm where this educator, leader, writer, and presidential advisor was born into slavery. Take a tour of the farm, see the exhibits, and watch the films to learn about this remarkable man's journey from enslavement to being listed among the most influential African Americans of his era.

Support Black-Owned Businesses

On MLK Day and throughout the year, we encourage you to embrace the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream by supporting Black-owned businesses in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains. These businesses not only contribute to the local economy but also play a vital role in promoting diversity and inclusivity.

Whether it's savoring a meal at a Black-owned restaurant, shopping at a boutique, or enjoying the services of a Black-owned establishment, your support goes a long way in fostering a stronger, more united community.