After a Year, King Memorial’s Inscription Still Not Replaced

Critics of the monument, including the poet Maya Angelou, complain that the inscription on the monument is not an accurate quote.

Posted: 08/29/2012 05:10 PM EDT
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

It has been a year since the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C., opened to great fanfare and a stream of visitors to the historic monument. But the memorial also opened with a bit of controversy and that one issue has not yet been addressed.

There has been a good deal of criticism about the inscription on the monument, which paraphrases a celebrated King speech in a way that, critics complain, detracts from the humility reflected in the verbatim quote. The critics, who include the poet Maya Angelou, have called for a new inscription.

The inscription reads: "I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness."

However, the quote from the 1968 speech was “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."

There are plans underway for the sculptor, Chinese artist Lei Yixin, to replace the inscription and add new granite to the monument to accommodate the new one, which will be carved by Nicholas Benson of Newport, Rhode Island.

The Associated Press reported that Harry Johnson, the president of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Foundation, said the work on the monument will wait until the Washington summer tourist season ends. After that, work on the inscription will begin with the intention of completing it by King’s birthday in January.

"We're trying for the least amount of disruption so that no harm is done to the stone," Johnson said of the stone work. Earlier, the memorial group fought the change, stating that the replacement of the inscription would damage the design and that the new granite would not match the color of the original.

Between 1.5 million and 2 million people have visited the memorial in its first year, Johnson said.

 

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(Photo: AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

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