Hundreds of non-LDS genealogy enthusiasts from across the state of Georgia gathered Feb. 20 as part of the Church's Atlanta Public Affairs' ninth annual Black Family History Month Symposium, at which tribute was paid to this year's Community Service Award recipient, Martin Luther King III — son of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
The daylong annual event in the National Archives at Atlanta (located in Morrow, Ga.) has become so popular that hundreds enter their names on a waiting list in hopes of being able to attend. Comments from those who attended included one individual who said, "I wouldn't miss this for the world."
Elder David H. Ingram, an Area Seventy, presented Mr. King with the gift of the Church-compiled four-generation King family genealogy and framed family tree. Linwood Jones, second counselor in the Atlanta Georgia Stake presidency, presented Mr. King with the Community Service Award certificate and medal.
Mr. King was accompanied by his wife, Arndrea. He thanked the Church for the award and spoke about the efforts of his Realizing the Dream Foundation, the organization he founded in 2006 to carry on his parents' legacy, which also includes efforts to conquer poverty. He talked of his organization's continued plans in visiting 50 U.S. communities and said the fight against poverty can be won when ability and will come together. With the hope to take those efforts globally, Mr. King indicated that 120 countries celebrate the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in some fashion and that he hopes that the holiday comes to mean freedom and equality for all humankind across the world.
The symposium included speakers who addressed various topics pertaining to African-American family history, including the genealogy of Martin Luther King Jr.
Attendees also learned of the joint program between the National Archives at Atlanta and the Church to increase the tools available to African Americans to research their family lines, including digitizing World War II draft cards and thousands of original slave manifests from the 1700s and 1800s to make them more readily available to researchers.
The Black Family History Day Leadership Symposium was first created by Atlanta Public Affairs in 2001 to celebrate Black History Month by honoring individuals and organizations that have played a positive leadership role within Atlanta's black communities in conjunction with the Church's national release of a CD on the Freedman's Bank records.