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Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is located in Washington, D.C.
Location in Washington, D.C.
Location Washington, D.C.:
1964 Independence Ave. SW, Washington, D.C.
Designer Lei Yixin
Material White granite
Height 30 ft (9.1 m)
Completion date 2011
Opening date October 16, 2011
Dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr.
Official website

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is located in West Potomac Park in Washington, D.C., southwest of the National Mall.[1] The national memorial is America's 395th unit in the National Park Service.[2] The monumental memorial is located at the northwest corner of the Tidal Basin near the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, on a sightline linking the Lincoln Memorial to the northwest and the Jefferson Memorial to the southeast. The official address of the monument, 1964 Independence Avenue, S.W., commemorates the year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 became law.[3]

Covering four acres and including a statue of King by sculptor Lei Yixin, the memorial opened to the public on August 22, 2011, after more than two decades of planning, fund-raising and construction.[4][5] A ceremony dedicating the Memorial was scheduled for Sunday, August 28, 2011, the 48th anniversary of the "I Have a Dream" speech that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963[6] but was postponed until October 16 (the 16th anniversary of the 1995 Million Man March on the National Mall) due to Hurricane Irene.[7][8][9]

Although this is not the first memorial to an African American in Washington, D.C., King is the first African American honored with a memorial on or near the National Mall and only the fourth non-President to be memorialized in such a way. The King Memorial is administered by the National Park Service (NPS).


  • Context 1
  • Vision statement 2
  • Project proposal 3
  • Description 4
    • Location 4.1
    • Structure 4.2
    • Inscriptions 4.3
    • The Inscription Wall 4.4
    • Inscriptions on the Stone of Hope 4.5
  • Artists 5
  • Opening, dedication, and administration 6
    • President's remarks 6.1
  • Reception 7
    • Fees to King family 7.1
    • Conflicts between federal agencies 7.2
    • Design choices 7.3
      • Sculptor and laborers 7.3.1
      • Stone used 7.3.2
      • Style 7.3.3
      • Depiction 7.3.4
    • Paraphrase of a quote 7.4
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


Delivering the "I Have a Dream" speech at the 1963 Washington, D.C. Civil Rights March.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968), an American clergyman, activist, and prominent leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement, was an iconic figure in the advancement of civil rights in the United States and around the world, and advocated for using nonviolent resistance, inspired by Mahatma Gandhi.[10] Although during his life he was monitored by the FBI for presumed communist sympathies, King is now presented as a heroic leader in the history of modern American liberalism.[11][12]

At the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, King imagined an end to racial inequality in his "I Have a Dream" speech.[13] This speech has been canonized as one of the greatest pieces of American oratory.[14] In 1964, King became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to end racial segregation and racial discrimination through civil disobedience and other nonviolent means.[15]

At the time of his death, he had refocused his efforts on ending poverty and Poor People's Campaign[18] – when he was killed in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968.[19]

Vision statement

The official vision statement for the King Memorial notes:

Harry E. Johnson, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the memorial foundation, added these words in a letter posted on the memorial's website:

Project proposal

Memorial site, shown in relation to areas including the National Mall, West Potomac Park, and the Tidal Basin

The memorial is a result of an early effort of

  • Official NPS website
  • Memorial Foundation and fundraising website
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Virtual Tour
  • Public Law 104-333 Congressional authorization for memorial to Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Video of President Barack Obama's remarks at official Oct. 16, 2011 memorial dedication

External links

  1. ^ "The National Mall". [ National Mall Plan] (PDF). Foundation statement for the National Mall and Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic Park.  
  2. ^ a b Adam Fetcher, David Barna, Carol Johnson (August 29, 2011). "National Park Service Press Release: Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Becomes 395th National Park". Retrieved September 1, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Site Location - Build the Dream". Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, Inc. Archived from the original on August 5, 2012. Retrieved September 10, 2011. 
  4. ^ Tavernise, Sabrina (August 23, 2011). "A Dream Fulfilled, Martin Luther King Memorial Opens". The New York Times. 
  5. ^ a b c d Cooper, Rachel. "Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial in Washington, DC: Building a Memorial Honoring Martin Luther King, Jr.". (part of The New York Times Company). Retrieved August 24, 2011. 
  6. ^ a b "Lincoln Memorial". We Shall Overcome: Historic Places of the Civil Rights Movement: A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary.  
  7. ^ "Dedication of MLK Memorial postponed by hurricane".  
  8. ^ a b Weil, Martin (September 11, 2011). "MLK memorial dedication set for Oct. 16".  
  9. ^ a b "New date set for MLK memorial dedication". CBS News. Associated Press. September 14, 2011. Retrieved September 14, 2011. 
  10. ^ D'Souza, Placido P. (January 20, 2003). "Commemorating Martin Luther King Jr.: Gandhi's influence on King". San Francisco Chronicle. 
  11. ^ Avlon, John (January 16, 2012). "The MLK Whitewash". Daily Beast. Retrieved October 7, 2012. 
  12. ^ Krugman, Paul R. (2007), The Conscience of a Liberal, p. 85 
  13. ^ "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom". King Encyclopedia. King Research and Education Institute. Retrieved October 7, 2012. 
  14. ^ Dlugan, Andrew (January 16, 2012). "‘I Have a Dream’ holds 5 lessons for speechwriters: Rev. King’s stirring address resonates in oratorical circles as well as historical ones.". Retrieved October 7, 2012. 
  15. ^ "Martin Luther King - Biography". Nobel Media AB. Retrieved September 10, 2011. 
  16. ^ Michael E. Eidenmuller. "Martin Luther King, Jr: A Time to Break Silence (Declaration Against the Vietnam War)". American Rhetoric. Retrieved September 10, 2011. 
  17. ^ Sullivan, Bartholomew. "Martin Luther King Jr. focused on ending poverty". The Commercial Appeal. Retrieved September 10, 2011. 
  18. ^ Honey, Michael K. Going Down Jericho Road: The Memphis strike, Martin Luther King's last campaign. New York: Norton, 2007. ISBN 9780393043396.
  19. ^ "1968: Martin Luther King shot dead". On This Day (BBC). 2006. Retrieved August 27, 2008. 
  20. ^ "Mission & Vision - Build the Dream". Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, Inc. Archived from the original on September 12, 2012. Retrieved September 10, 2011. 
  21. ^ "The President's Letter - Build the Dream". Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, Inc. August 28, 2011. Archived from the original on September 3, 2012. Retrieved September 10, 2011. 
  22. ^ "Martin Luther King, Jr.". Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Eta Lambda chapter. Archived from the original on November 16, 2008. Retrieved October 20, 2011. 
  23. ^ "1950-59". Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Sigma Chapter: 17th-House. 2009. Retrieved September 10, 2011. 
  24. ^ a b  
  25. ^ Gray, Butler T. (2006). "National Mall Site Chosen for Memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.". Retrieved December 12, 2011. 
  26. ^ Wheeler, Linda (December 5, 2000). Sacred Ground' Dedicated to King; Plaque Placed at Site of Memorial for Civil Rights Leader"'". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 16, 2009. 
  27. ^ a b "King Memorial Raises Goal by $20 million". Alpha Phi Alpha. Associated Press. August 13, 2008. Retrieved April 16, 2009. 
  28. ^ Malone, Julie (December 4, 2008). "Rights pioneers visit King site]".  
  29. ^ "NAR Donates $1 million to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial".  
  30. ^ a b c Zongker, Brett (October 29, 2009). "Construction to begin on King memorial in DC".  
  31. ^ Ruane, Michael E. (February 11, 2011). "Massive King memorial nearly ready for trip to Mall for assembly".  
  32. ^ Quinn, Christopher (January 17, 2010). "King Memorial done by 2011, construction started". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved October 20, 2011. 
  33. ^ Ruane, Michael (December 2, 2010). "Stone by Stone, 'Hope' rises". The Washington Post. p. B1. 
  34. ^ a b "Tears Fall At The Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial". WUSA. June 30, 2011. Retrieved September 10, 2011. 
  35. ^ a b c d e "Design Elements - Build the Dream". Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, Inc. Retrieved September 10, 2011. 
  36. ^ "King's Memorial To Stand Among D.C.'s Honored". Around the Nation.  
  37. ^ a b c "Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Review". Fodor's Travel Guides. Retrieved September 10, 2011. 
  38. ^ a b Johnston, Lori (February 8, 2010). "Q: How is it that Martin Luther King Jr. gets a memorial on the mall in Washington, D.C.? I was under the impression that only presidents were entitled to have a memorial.". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved September 10, 2011. 
  39. ^ "John Ericsson National Memorial (U.S. National Park Service)". National Park Service. February 14, 2011. Retrieved September 10, 2011. 
  40. ^ "JONES, John Paul: Memorial north of - across Independence Ave - near the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. by Charles Henry Niehaus located in James M. Goode's The Mall area". Retrieved September 10, 2011. 
  41. ^ a b Golub, Evan. "Quotations from Inscription Wall of Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial". Demotix. Retrieved September 10, 2011. 
  42. ^ "Martin Luther King Memorial Wall". Retrieved September 10, 2011. 
  43. ^ "Council of Historians SelectsMartin Luther King, Jr. Quotations to Be Engraved Into Memorial - Build the Dream". Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, Inc. Retrieved September 10, 2011. 
  44. ^ a b c d e f g h Weingarten, Gene; Ruane, Michael (August 31, 2011). "Maya Angelo Says King Memorial Inscription Makes Him Look Arrogant".  
  45. ^ "Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, official brochure prepared by the National Mall and Memorial Parks, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.
  46. ^ "Announcement of Quotations to Be Engraved on Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial - 'Stone of Hope' Sculptor to Be Named - Build the Dream". Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, Inc. Archived from the original on August 4, 2012. Retrieved September 10, 2011. 
  47. ^ Henry J. Reske (August 26, 2011). "Obama, MLK Memorial Wrong on 'Arc' Quote". Newsmax. Retrieved September 10, 2011. 
  48. ^ Stiehm, Jamie (August 26, 2012). "At King ceremony, a chance to bend toward justice". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 11, 2012. 
  49. ^ Stiehm, Jamie (September 4, 2010). "Oval Office rug gets history wrong". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 11, 2012. 
  50. ^ a b Wemple, Erik (August 29, 2011). "A monumental misquote on the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 10, 2011. 
  51. ^ a b "Controversial MLK Memorial inscription to be removed". CNN. December 12, 2012. Retrieved December 13, 2012. 
  52. ^ "National Mall Times", National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Vol. 4, Issue 8, August 2011, pages 5-6.
  53. ^ "Week of Dedication". Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, Inc. Retrieved September 10, 2011. 
  54. ^ "MLK Jr. Memorial Dedication Postponed Indefinitely".  
  55. ^ "Dedication of King memorial postponed due to Irene".  
  56. ^ Nuckols, Ben (August 25, 2011). "Dedication of MLK Memorial Postponed by Hurricane".  
  57. ^ a b c d Ruane, Michael E. (August 4, 2011). "Obama to speak at King memorial dedication in D.C.". PostLocal. Retrieved October 20, 2011. 
  58. ^ Boorstein, Michelle (August 25, 2011). "Earthquake-damaged Washington National Cathedral needs to raise millions". The Washington Post. Post Local. Retrieved August 25, 2011. 
  59. ^ "MLK memorial taking shape on Washington's Tidal Basin". ABC Action News. January 17, 2011. Retrieved September 10, 2011. 
  60. ^ a b Spivack, Miranda S. (October 16, 2011). "President Obama speaks at MLK Memorial dedication". National: Full Coverage: The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. Retrieved October 18, 2011. 
  61. ^ a b McClain, Matt; Kahn, Nikki; Carioti, Ricky; Mara, Melina; Antonov (October 16, 2011). "The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial dedication". PostLocal: Full Coverage: The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. Retrieved October 18, 2011. 
  62. ^ Ruane, Michael E. (October 15, 2011). "MLK memorial dedication Sunday to feature Obama, stars and civil rights figures". PostLocal. Retrieved October 16, 2011. 
  63. ^ "MLK Memorial Dedication".  
  64. ^ President's dedication remarks, from website. Retrieved October 22, 2011.
  65. ^ Fears, Darryl (April 8, 2002). "Entrepreneurship of Profiteering? Critics Say King's Family Is Dishonoring His Legacy". Archived from the original on September 28, 2007. Retrieved October 20, 2007. 
  66. ^ "King Family Takes Fees From Funds Raised for the MLK Memorial Project". Fox News Channel. Associated Press. April 17, 2009. Retrieved April 17, 2009. 
  67. ^ Shirek, John (April 22, 2009). "King Center: MLK's Children Not Making Money on Memorial]".  
  68. ^ Jonathan Turley (April 22, 2009). "Cashing in on Martin Luther King Jr.". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 26, 2011. 
  69. ^ Haines (Associated Press) (August 23, 2011). "After long struggle, MLK has home on National Mall". Fox News Channel. Retrieved August 26, 2011. 
  70. ^ a b Schwartzman, Paul (December 4, 2008). "King Memorial: Dispute Over Security Delays Construction".  
  71. ^ a b Ruane, Michael E. (October 27, 2009). "Construction of MLK memorial on the Mall poised to begin". Metro. Retrieved October 20, 2011. 
  72. ^ "Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Bench Modifications" (PDF).  
  73. ^ "40 USC Chapter 89 - National Capital Memorials and Commemorative Works".  
  74. ^ "Chinese master sculptor to produce MLK memorial carving". CNN. February 15, 2007. Archived from the original on September 7, 2012. Retrieved October 20, 2011. 
  75. ^ Cha, Ariana Eunjung (August 14, 2007). "A King Statue 'Made in China'?".  
  76. ^ Young, Gilbert; Lea Winfrey Young. "King is Ours". The He Ain't Heavy Foundation. Retrieved October 20, 2007. 
  77. ^ Lau, Ann (September 18, 2007). "Dissing MLK". National Review. Retrieved October 20, 2007. 
  78. ^ "Martin Luther King, Jr. monument planners criticized for selecting Chinese sculptor for job". International Herald Tribune. August 24, 2007. 
  79. ^ Vondrasek, Sandy (November 15, 2007). "Button: Event Raised Profile of MLK Protest". The Herald of Randolph. Randolph, Vermont: OurHerald, Inc. Retrieved October 20, 2011. 
  80. ^ Shin, Annys (November 23, 2010). "As Chinese workers build the Martin Luther King memorial, a union investigates". Metro. Retrieved October 20, 2011. 
  81. ^ "History of the Memorial". Washington, D.C. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, Inc. Archived from the original on September 13, 2012. Retrieved October 20, 2007. 
  82. ^ a b Shaila Dewan (May 18, 2008). "Larger Than Life, More to Fight Over".  
  83. ^ Page, Clarence (August 28, 2011). "Give King memorial a chance".  
  84. ^ Delcore, David (November 8, 2007). "Press conference on Martin Luther King Jr. memorial draws enthusiastic crowd".  
  85. ^ McLean, Dan (November 9, 2007). "'"Granite workers: 'King is ours.  
  86. ^ Fulbright, Leslie (November 28, 2007). "State NAACP joins protest of Chinese artist chosen for MLK monument".  
  87. ^ JohnBeckWLD (January 21, 2008). "Resolved: CA NAACP Should Rescind the First Half of Resolution 11 This MLK Holiday". The Straight Dope. Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd. Retrieved October 20, 2011. Originally Posted by California NAACP: Therefore be it resolved, the California State Conference of the NAACP demands that the decision to use Lei Yixin, from the People's Republic of China, an artist renowned for glorifying Mao Zedong be overturned; and denounces the decision to use granite quarried using slave labor, and demands that stone for the monument to Dr. King be quarried and carved in America; Be it further resolved, NAACP California State Conference calls upon Congress to conduct a formal investigation into the dismissal of sculptor Ed Dwight, who was originally contracted to serve as consultant and Artist-of-Record for the King memorial, and into the replacement of the African American firm Devroaux & Purness Architects; Be it finally resolved, that the California State Conference of the NAACP demands that the King Memorial Project Foundation name an African American artistic team as Artists-of-Record for the monument to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and that an oversight committee be created to enforce these resolutions. 
  88. ^ Rothstein, Edward, "A Mirror of Greatness, Blurred", New York Times, August 25, 2011, retrieved September 2, 2012.
  89. ^ a b Eversley, Melanie, "MLK Memorial confronts controversy", USA Today, July 5, 2011. Retrieved September 2, 2012.
  90. ^ Wemple, Erik (August 25, 2011). "Martin Luther King a drum major? If you say so".  
  91. ^ Board&, Editorial (December 31, 2011). "Why hasn’t the government done the right thing with the MLK memorial?".  
  92. ^ a b c d Morello, Carol and O’Keefe, Ed (January 13, 2012). "King Memorial inscription to be corrected, interior secretary order". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 14, 2012. 
  93. ^ "Controversial King memorial inscription set to be erased, not replaced". The Washington Post. December 12, 2012. Retrieved December 13, 2012. 
  94. ^ "DISPUTED INSCRIPTION REMOVED FROM MLK MEMORIAL". Associated Press. Retrieved August 2, 2013. 
  95. ^ Heitmann, Danny (August 27, 2013). "Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and the danger of the misquote". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved August 30, 2013. 
  96. ^ Chin, Curits S (August 24, 2013). "From Martin Luther King through Lei Yixin, a message for Asia". The Nation. Retrieved February 26, 2014. 


See also

In December 2012, Salazar announced that the entire quote would be removed, starting in February or March 2013; it will not be replaced.[51] To avoid leaving an impression of the erased inscription, the entire statue will be reworked on both sides, at a cost of $700,000 to $900,000. Harry Johnson, head of the memorial foundation, said, "We have come up with a design solution that will not harm the integrity of this work of art."[93] In August 2013, the sculptor removed the disputed inscription from the statue, and created a new finish for the side of the artwork. Sculptor Lei Yixin carved grooves over the former words to match existing horizontal "striation" marks in the memorial and deepened all the memorial's grooves so that they will match.[94][95][96]

On January 13, 2012, United States Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar ordered the quotation corrected.[92] Salazar stated that he believed it was important that the inscription be changed and that he put a deadline on the delivery of the report because "things only happen when you put a deadline on it."[92] According to the project's lead architect, the correction of the quote was not a simple matter, as the current inscription is chiseled into the existing granite blocks.[92] As the entire quotation will not fit on the monument, the replacement was still expected be a paraphrase; however, project officials would not comment on proposed corrections until they were presented to Secretary Salazar.[92]

The memorial's planners had originally intended to use the unrevised version of King's words, but adopted the paraphrased version when changes to the monument's design left them without enough space on the sculpture. "We sincerely felt passionate that the man's own eulogy should be expressed on the stone", said the memorial's executive architect, Ed Jackson, Jr. "We said the least we could do was define who he was based on his perception of himself: 'I was a drum major for this, this and this.'"[44]  Jackson said the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts and two memorial advisers had not objected to the change, and that Angelou had not attended meetings where the inscription was discussed.[44]

In a September 1, 2011, piece, and again on December 31 of the same year, The Post's editorial board agreed with Manteuffel that the wording on the monument should be changed.[50][91] Poet and author Maya Angelou, a consultant on the memorial, also emphatically agreed, telling the Post: "The quote makes Dr. Martin Luther King look like an arrogant twit....It makes him seem less than the humanitarian he was....It makes him seem an egotist." She also pointed out, "The 'if' clause that is left out is salient. Leaving it out changes the meaning completely."[44]

One of the two quotes appearing on the Stone of Hope and attributed to King, "I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness", is a paraphrased version of King's actual words, which were: "If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter."[44] The Washington Post's Rachel Manteuffel noticed the change and publicized it in an August 25, 2011 column, arguing that the revised quote misrepresented both King himself and the meaning of the 1968 sermon from which it was taken, in which King imagined the sort of eulogy he might receive.[90]

Paraphrase of a quote

On the other hand, King's son Martin Luther King III was quoted as being pleased with the sternness of the depiction, saying that "Well if my father was not confrontational, given what he was facing at the time, what else could he be?"[89]

The way King is depicted with his arms crossed contributed to criticism that he appears stern. [89]

We don’t even see his feet. He is embedded in the rock like something not yet fully born, suited and stern, rising from its roughly chiseled surface. His face is uncompromising, determined, his eyes fixed in the distance, not far from where Jefferson stands across the water. But kitsch here strains at the limits of resemblance: Is this the Dr. King of the "I Have a Dream" speech? Or the writer of the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech?

New York Times art critic Edward Rothstein was among those who criticized the depiction of King as overly "stern": not the proper depiction of a man famous for a speech like "I Have a Dream" or the Nobel Peace Prize: [88]


In May 2008, the Commission of Fine Arts, one of the agencies which had to approve all elements of the memorial, raised concerns about "the colossal scale and Social Realist style of the proposed sculpture", noting that it "recalls a genre of political sculpture that has recently been pulled down in other countries."[82] The Commission did, however, approve the final design in September 2008.[70]


Young's King Is Ours petition demanded that an African American artist and American granite be used for the national monument, arguing the importance of such selections as a part of the memorial's legacy. The petition received support from American granite workers[84][85] and from the California State Conference of the NAACP.[86][87]

The memorial's design team visited China in October 2006 to inspect potential granite to be used.[81] The project's foundation has argued that only China could provide granite of that hue in sufficient quantity.[82] Some questioned why such white granite would be used to portray a black man.[83]

President Obama talks with President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil as they tour the Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington, D.C., June 29, 2015.

Stone used

In September 2010, the foundation gave written promises that it would use local stonemasons to assemble the memorial. However, when construction began in October, it appeared that only Chinese laborers would be used. An investigator working for the Washington area local of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers was reportedly told that the Chinese workers did not know what they would be paid for their work on the memorial and that they expected to be paid when they returned home.[80]

Gilbert Young, an artist known for a work of art entitled He Ain't Heavy, led a protest against the decision to hire Lei by launching the website King Is Ours, which demanded that an African American artist be used for the monument.[76] Human-rights activist and arts advocate Ann Lau and American stone-carver Clint Button joined Young and national talk-show host Joe Madison in advancing the protest when the use of Chinese granite was discovered.[77] Lau decried the human rights record of the Chinese government and asserted that the granite would be mined by workers forced to toil in unsafe and unfair conditions, unlike that used in the National World War II Memorial, for example.[78] Button argued that the $10 million in federal money that has been authorized for the King project required it to be subject to an open bidding process.[79]

It was announced in January 2007 that Lei Yixin, an artist from the People's Republic of China, would sculpt the centerpiece of the memorial, including the statue of King[74] and the "Stone of Hope". The commission was criticized by human rights activist Harry Wu on the grounds that Lei had sculpted Mao Zedong. It also stirred accusations that it was based on financial considerations, because the Chinese government would make a $25 million donation to help meet the projected shortfall in donations. The president of the memorial's foundation, Harry E. Johnson, who first met Lei in a sculpting workshop in Saint Paul, Minnesota, stated that the final selection was done by a mostly African American design team and was based solely on artistic ability.[75]

Sculptor and laborers

Design choices

The NCPC disapproved the design and location of the proposed donor wall within the memorials visitor center in September 2010. The inclusion of the donor wall violates the Commemorative Works Act (40 U.S.C. 8905) as amended, as well as the Commission's policies on donor recognition.[72] The relevant section of the Commemorative Works Act states that "contributions to commemorative works shall not be acknowledged in any manner as part of the commemorative work or its site."[73]

The controversial "donor wall"

Further delay was encountered in 2008, due to a disagreement between the three federal agencies that must approve the memorial. The memorial design that was approved by the CFA and the NCPC was not approved by the NPS, due to security concerns. The NPS insisted upon the inclusion of a barrier that would prevent a vehicle from crashing into the memorial area. However, when the original design was submitted to the other two agencies, including such a barrier, the CFA and the NCPC rejected the barrier as being restrictive in nature, which would run counter to King's philosophy of freedom and openness.[70] Eventually, a compromise was reached, which involved the use of landscaping to make the security barriers appear less intrusive upon the area.[71] The compromise plan was approved in October 2009,[71] clearing the way for construction of the memorial to begin.[30]

Conflicts between federal agencies

The foundation has paid various fees to the King family's Intellectual Properties Management Inc., including a management fee of $71,700 in 2003.[68] In 2009, the Associated Press revealed that the King family had negotiated an $800,000 licensing deal with the foundation for the use of King's words and image in fundraising materials for the memorial.[69]

In 2001, the foundation's efforts to build the memorial were stalled because Joseph Lowery, past president of the King-founded Southern Christian Leadership Conference stated in The Washington Post, "If nobody's going to make money off of it, why should anyone get a fee?"[65] Cambridge University historian David Garrow, who won a Pulitzer Prize for Bearing The Cross, his biography of King, said of King's family's behavior, "One would think any family would be so thrilled to have their forefather celebrated and memorialized in D.C. that it would never dawn on them to ask for a penny." He added that King would have been "absolutely scandalized by the profiteering behavior of his children."[66] The family pledged that any money derived would go back to the King Center's charitable efforts.[30][67]

Fees to King family


At the ceremony, President Obama's keynote address included the following remarks:[64]

President's remarks

The rescheduled dedication on October 16 was a smaller affair than the one that organizers had planned for August 28. President Obama, John Lewis, Congressman Elijah Cummings and former Congressman Walter E. Fauntroy were among the more than 10,000 people that attended the event, which occurred on a temperate day.[60][61] Obama gave a keynote address that linked the civil rights movement to his own political struggles during the late-2000s recession).[60] Jesse Jackson, Andrew Young, Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King III also spoke during the ceremony.[61] Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Sheryl Crow, James Taylor, Jennifer Holiday and Sweet Honey in the Rock performed.[62]

Although the dedication ceremony did not take place on August 28, the memorial officially became a United States national park on that day. The National Park Service has administered the memorial since it opened, and assumes responsibility for the memorial's operation and maintenance.[59] On August 28, Bob Vogel, superintendent of the National Mall and Memorial Parks unit of the National Park Service proclaimed:

In addition to the August 28 ceremony and concerts, an interfaith prayer service was scheduled to take place at the Washington National Cathedral on August 27, as well as a day-long youth event and gala/pre-dedication dinner at the Washington, D.C. Convention Center, also on the 27th.[57] However, the prayer service was moved to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in northeast Washington after the 2011 Virginia earthquake damaged the Cathedral on August 23.[58]

[57] As many as 250,000 people were predicted to attend the dedication.[57] Before the event's postponement, President

[9][8] However, on August 25, the event's organizers postponed most Saturday and Sunday activities because of safety concerns related to [5] A post-dedication concert was scheduled for 2 pm.[5] The official dedication was initially scheduled to have taken place at 11 am Sunday August 28. The dedication was to follow a pre-dedication concert at 10 am.[53] The memorial opened to visitors before its planned dedication, with visiting hours on August 22–25, 2011.

Aretha Franklin speaks to the crowd at the dedication of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. At right Vice President Joseph Biden, his wife Dr. Jill Biden, and President Obama
Hats given to attendees at the dedication ceremony
Sheryl Crow with Stevie Wonder at the dedication concert

Opening, dedication, and administration

  • Master Lei Yixin, sculptor
  • Nicholas Benson, Inscription designer and stone carver
  • Bob Fitch, SCLC Staff Photographer, whose photo image of Dr. King in his office in front of a photograph of Mohandas Gandhi was the basis for the monument
  • Devraux and Purnell/ROMA Design Group Joint Ventures
  • McKissack and McKissack/Turner Construction Company/Tompkins Builders, Inc./Gilford Corporation Joint Ventures

Artists involved in the design and construction of the memorial include:[52]


In addition to the fourteen quotations on the Inscription Wall, each side of the Stone of Hope includes an additional statement attributed to King.[44] The first, from the "I Have a Dream" speech, is "Out of the Mountain of Despair, a Stone of Hope"—the quotation that serves as the basis for the monument's design.[44] The words on the other side of the stone used to read, "I Was a Drum Major for Justice, Peace, and Righteousness", which is a paraphrased version of a longer quote by King: "If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter." The memorial's use of the paraphrased version of the quote was criticized,[44][50] and was removed in August 2013.[51]

Inscriptions on the Stone of Hope

Some of King's words reflected in these quotations are based on other sources, including the Bible, and in one case—"the arc of the moral universe" quote— paraphrases the words of Theodore Parker, an abolitionist and Unitarian minister, who died shortly before the beginning of the Civil War.[47][48][49]

  • "We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice." (March 31, 1968, National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.)
  • "Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that." (1963, Strength to Love)
  • "I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant." (December 10, 1964, Oslo, Norway)
  • "Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in." (April 18, 1959, Washington, D.C.)
  • "I oppose the war in Vietnam because I love America. I speak out against it not in anger but with anxiety and sorrow in my heart, and above all with a passionate desire to see our beloved country stand as a moral example of the world." (February 25, 1967, Los Angeles, California)
  • "If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective." (December 24, 1967, Atlanta, Georgia)
  • "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly." (April 16, 1963, Birmingham, Alabama)
  • "I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits." (December 10, 1964, Oslo, Norway)
  • "It is not enough to say "We must not wage war." It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it. We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but on the positive affirmation of peace." (December 24, 1967, Atlanta, Georgia)
  • "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." (February 25, 1967, Los Angeles, California)
  • "Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies." (April 4, 1967, Riverside Church, Manhattan, New York)
  • "We are determined here in Montgomery to work and fight until justice runs down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream." (December 5, 1955, Montgomery, Alabama)
  • "We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience." (April 16, 1963, Birmingham, Alabama)
  • "True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice." (April 16, 1963, Birmingham, Alabama)

The selection of quotes was announced at a special event at the National Building Museum on February 9, 2007 (at the same time the identity of the sculptor was revealed).[46] The fourteen quotes on the Inscription Wall are:[41]

The earliest quote is from 1955, spoken during the time of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and the latest is from a sermon King delivered at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., four days before he was assassinated.[35] The quotes are not arranged in chronological order, so that no visitor must follow a "defined path" to follow the quotations, instead being able to start reading at any point he or she might choose.[35] Because the main theme of the Memorial is linked to King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech, none of the quotations on the Inscription Wall come from that speech.[35]

Fourteen quotes from King's speeches, sermons, and writings are inscribed on the Inscription Wall.[41] The "Council of Historians" created to choose the quotations included Dr. Maya Angelou, Lerone Bennett, Dr. Clayborne Carson, Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Marianne Williamson and others,[42][43] though the memorial's executive architect stated that Maya Angelou did not attend the meetings at which the quotations were selected.[44] According to the official National Park Service brochure for the Memorial, the inscriptions that were chosen "stress four primary messages of Dr. King: justice, democracy, hope, and love."[45]

The Inscription Wall

Sculptor Lei Yixin's signature on the memorial


The memorial is the fourth that commemorates a non-United States president that is located on or near the National Mall.[38] The others include the Virginia Declaration of Rights (the basis for the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights), near the Thomas Jefferson Memorial; the John Ericsson Memorial, erected to honor John Ericsson,[39] the Swedish-born engineer and inventor who designed the USS Monitor during the Civil War; and the John Paul Jones Memorial, erected in 1912 near the Tidal Basin in memory of John Paul Jones, the Scottish-born American naval hero who served during the American Revolution.[38][40]

This memorial is not the first in Washington, D.C., to honor an African American, as one already exists for Mary McLeod Bethune, founder of the National Council of Negro Women, who also served as an unofficial advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.[37] A 17 feet (5.2 m)-tall bronze statue of her is located in Lincoln Park, East Capitol St. and 12th St., NE.[37] The King Memorial is the first memorial to an African American on or near the National Mall.[37]

The relief of King is intended to give the impression that he is looking over the Tidal Basin toward the horizon, and that the cherry trees that "adorn the site" will bloom every year during the anniversary of King's death.[36]

A 450 feet (140 m)-long inscription wall includes excerpts from many of King's sermons and speeches.[5] On this crescent-shaped granite wall, fourteen of King's quotes are inscribed, the earliest from the time of the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott in Alabama, and the latest from his final sermon, delivered in 1968 at Washington, D.C.'s National Cathedral, just four days before his assassination.[35]

The centerpiece for the memorial is based on a line from King's "I Have A Dream" speech: "Out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope."[34] A 30 feet (9.1 m)-high relief of King named the "Stone of Hope" stands past two other pieces of granite that symbolize the "mountain of despair."[34] Visitors figuratively "pass through" the Mountain of Despair on the way to the Stone of Hope, symbolically "moving through the struggle as Dr. King did during his life."[35]


The street address for the memorial is 1964 Independence Avenue SW in Washington, D.C. The address "1964" was chosen as a direct reference to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, a milestone in the Civil Rights Movement in which King played an important role.[3] The memorial is located on a 4-acre (1.6 ha) site in West Potomac Park that borders the Tidal Basin, southwest of the National Mall.[3] The memorial is near the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and is intended to create a visual "line of leadership" from the Lincoln Memorial, on whose steps King gave his "I Have a Dream" speech at the March on Washington, to the Jefferson Memorial.[3][6]



In October 2009, the memorial's final project was approved by federal agencies and a building permit was issued.[30] Construction began in December 2009[31] and was expected to take 20 months to complete.[32] The foundation conducted a press tour on December 1, 2010, as the "Stone of Hope" was nearing completion. At that time only $108 million of the $120 million project cost had been raised.[33]

In August 2008, the foundation's leaders estimated the memorial would take 20 months to complete with a total cost of $120 million USD.[27] As of December 2008, the foundation had raised approximately $108 million,[28] including substantial contributions from such donors as the matching funds provided by the United States Congress.

The memorial's design, by ROMA Design Group, a San Francisco-based architecture firm, was selected out of 900 candidates from 52 countries. On December 4, 2000, a marble and bronze plaque was laid by Alpha Phi Alpha to dedicate the site where the memorial was to be built.[26] Soon thereafter, a full-time fundraising team began the fundraising and promotional campaign for the memorial. A ceremonial groundbreaking for the memorial was held on November 13, 2006, in West Potomac Park.

In 1996, the foundation—the Washington, D.C. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation—to manage the memorial's fundraising and design, and approved the building of the memorial on the National Mall. In 1999, the United States Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) and the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) approved the site location for the memorial.

[25].national holiday, Alpha Phi Alpha proposed erecting a permanent memorial to King in Washington, D.C. The fraternity's efforts gained momentum in 1986, after King's birthday was designated a King's assassination In 1968, after [24] speech at the fraternity's 50th anniversary banquet in 1956.keynote King remained involved with the fraternity after the completion of his studies, including delivering the [24].Boston University while he was attending [23]

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