Thousands Hit DC for MLK Memorial

Obama, Aretha Franklin, Nikki Giovanni and more pay homage.

Posted: 10/16/2011 11:28 AM EDT

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial has been a long time coming. First scheduled to take place in August to coincide with the 40th Anniversary of King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, the celebration was postponed due to Hurricane Irene.

 

But, by 9 A.M. today, thousands descended on Washington, D.C. to pay their respects and to honor the iconic 1960’s Civil Rights Movement hero and minister.

 

America's first Black president Barack Obama gave a passionate 13-minute speech in which he said, "This memorial is not for him alone. It depended on an entire movement of leaders. We owe them everlasting gratitude.”

 

Aretha Franklin hit the stage to sing the powerful "Take My Hand, Precious Lord," a song the singer says Dr. King often requested to hear. Stevie Wonder got the crowd feeling festive with his King anthem, "Happy Birthday." Legendary poet Nikki Giovanni, later in the day, will read the poem "In the Spirit of Martin."

 

ABC News says event planners expect more than 50,000 people to attend the dedication. The monumental “Stone of Hope,” carved by Chinese artist Lei Yixin, is made of white granite and stands 30 feet tall, a fitting tribute to a transformative figure like Dr. King.

(Photo: Mike Theiler-Pool/Getty Images)

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