MLK Day Keynote Speaker Announced

Dr. Earl Lewis, President Emeritus of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Thomas C. Holt Distinguished Professor of History, Afro American and African Studies and Public Policy at the University of Michigan, will be the keynote speaker for the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History’s commemoration of the Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday on Monday, January 20, 2020 presenting "Whose King?: Claiming the Man who Died for America's Soul" starting at 9 a.m. in The Wright's General Motors Theatre.

Lewis was appointed the sixth president of the Mellon Foundation in March 2013. During his time at Mellon, the foundation made grants totaling more than $1.2 billion as he spearheaded the implementation of the first strategic plan, reshaped key program areas, and expanded the number and types of grantees supported. Lewis implemented a range of important initiatives, including the Mellon Research Forum and the “Our Compelling Interests” book series and initiative. 

“We are thrilled to have a public intellectual of Dr. Lewis’ stature as our MLK keynote speaker,” said Neil A. Barclay, president and CEO of The Wright. “His stellar leadership at Mellon and now at the University of Michigan is helping to reframe debates about the most important social issues of our time.” 

The day’s events begin with a breakfast at 8 a.m. (museum doors open at 7 a.m.), with an invocation by Rev. Nicholas Hood III, Senior Pastor of Plymouth United Church of Christ. Followed by musical selections from Mr. Ken Boyd and vocalist Ms. Shahida Nurullah. Dr. Lewis’ will present his lecture in the museum’s General Motors Theatre at 9 a.m. 

Free, Family-friendly activities including educational film screenings, face painting and moderated discussions regarding giants of the civil rights movement, will take place from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.

All exhibits will be open on this day, from 9 am to 5 pm at the regular admission price of $8.


  • Breakfast tickets are $35 each.
  • Lecture only tickets are $15 each.
  • VIP breakfast tables for 10 guests can be purchased at the discounted price of $300.

Media Contact

Edward Foxworth III, Director of External Affairs, 313-494-5863,