Photo by ElvertBarnes
It was on August 21, 1972-40 years ago tomorrow-that the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library first opened to the public. Housed in D.C.’s only building designed by famed architect Mies van der Rohe, the library moved from the classic Mt. Vernon Square home it has occupied for 69 years. At the time of the building’s opening, it received critical praise: “Generosity, airiness and a nobility, or rather an ennobling feeling, are the words that come to mind throughout the building’s four stories of book stacks, reading areas, meeting rooms and offices,” wrote Wolf Von Eckardt, the Post’s architecture critic.
The intervening years haven’t been as kind to the building, and city officials have spent close to a decade debating whether D.C.’s public library can afford to stay in a building that, while iconic, is saddled with prohibitively expensive maintenance costs and long deferred renovation needs.
Late last year the Urban Land Institute was commissioned to debate the future of the building and the library within it, and a panel proposed shrinking the library’s footprint-the building has more space than the library uses-and seeking a second tenant. While the idea was warmly received by D.C. Librarian Ginnie Cooper, it remains a few years off-and millions of dollars underfunded.
In commemoration of the library’s 40th anniversary, library officials have organized a number of events this week, starting tomorrow evening with a speech by Post columnist Courtland Milloy in the building’s Great Hall. From Wednesday through Friday, the library will host a 1970s film festival (the listings are below), and on Saturday G Street in front of the building will be closed off for a 70s Style Block Party.
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library 40th Anniversary Kickoff
Tuesday, Aug. 21, 6 to 8 p.m., Great Hall.
Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy will deliver a thought-provoking keynote address reflecting the past 40 years of Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library’s role as an integral part of D.C. life. A reception featuring the Herman Burney Trio will follow the keynote.
40th Anniversary ’70s Film Festival
Wednesday, Aug. 22 to Friday, Aug. 24, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in room A-5
Celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library with unforgettable movies focusing on the 1970s.
’70s Style Block Party
Saturday, Aug. 25, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Bring the family to a 70′s-themed street festival. G Street will be closed in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library for back-to-school giveaways and activities, including dental and health screenings with school forms, school uniform sales. Celebrate Chuck Brown’s birthday with a presentation by D.C. music legend Jimi Dougans of the Young Senators and a performance by ’70s funk/R&B group Cops Come Knockin’. A table accepting donations to the Library’s Chuck Brown Archive will also be open.
70s Film Festival lineup
Wed., Aug. 22, 11:00 am-5:00 p.m.
“Washington in the ’70s” (2010) Not Rated, 60 min. The WETA documentary charts the District’s rise from the 1968 riots to its emergence as a world-class city, featuring first-hand accounts from those who shaped the events of the time.
“Cornbread, Earl and Me” (1975) Rated PG, 95 min. A 12-year-old is traumatized by the murder of his friend, a star basketball player.
“Talk to Me” (2007) Rated R, 118 min. The story of Washington D.C. radio personality Ralph Waldo “Petey” Greene, an ex-con who became a popular talk show host and community activist in the 1960s and 1970s.
Thur., Aug. 23
“Cabaret” (1972) Rated PG, 124 min. A female girlie club entertainer romances two men in Berlin as the Nazi Party comes into power.
“Car Wash” (1976) Rated PG, 97 min. A group of car wash workers in Los Angeles spend time at work indulging personal pursuits as different levels of oppression that control their lives gradually become apparent.
Fri., Aug. 24
“Shaft” (1971) Rated R, 100 min. A detective gets caught between underworld factions when a Harlem mobster hires him to find his kidnapped teenaged daughter.
“Dirty Harry” (1971) Rated R, 102 min. A San Francisco cop with a vigilante streak tracks down a serial killer.
“Chato’s Land” (1972) Rated PG, 110 min. Chato is a half Apache Indian who balances between two cultures. When Chato kills a vicious sheriff in self-defense, he finds himself hunted by a posse. But when Chato’s pursuers follow him into Apache territory, the odds shift in his favor.