A new monument that celebrates the love and partnership between Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King, is scheduled for unveiling at the start of the King holiday weekend.
"The Embrace," a bronze 22-foot tall sculpture designed by artist Hank Willis Thomas, officially opens Friday afternoon (Jan. 13) at Boston Common, a public park in the city where the couple met in the 1950s.
Thomas told CBS News’ Sunday Morning that he’s a bit concerned about the public’s reaction to his sculpture, which depicts only the arms and hands of the slain civil rights leader and his wife as they embraced each other after he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
"I'm kind of scared, because representing the Kings without their faces is a bold move," said Thomas, who reviewed scores of the couple’s images before proposing his vision for the project.
He added: "I just love that image, him hugging her with such glee and such joy and such pride, and I saw the pride on her face. And I recognized that this was teamwork. And all of his weight in that picture is, like, on her."
The artist shared details of his vision for the project with Sunday Morning.
Imari Paris Jeffries, executive director of Embrace Boston, the nonprofit group that oversaw installation of the monument, told local Boston station WBUR that he became emotional when first seeing the sculpture.
"And someone said to me, before I saw it for the first time, 'Imagine when you see it, you're going to cry.' " Jeffries said. "And I said, 'I've seen monuments before. I'm not going to cry when I see a monument.' And I actually did."
Embrace Boston raised $8 million to create “The Embrace” and another $2.5 million to preserve it. Boston is not only the place where the couple met but also where King earned his Ph.D. in theology at Boston University and led a civil rights march in 1965 from its Roxbury neighborhood to Boston Common.
"It will be a symbol of Boston," Jeffries told Sunday Morning. "It will be a symbol of love, belonging and hope."
Thomas’ vision for the monument was one of 126 submissions when the idea for the project started in 2017. Bostonians chose Thomas’ proposal by casting ballots in voting booths set up at city hall, libraries and post offices around town.
Workers at the Walla Walla Foundry in Washington state worked over 18 months, including assembling 609 different bronze cast panels, to bring the 20-ton sculpture to life, reports the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin. They then disassembled the statue and loaded the pieces on five trucks for transport to Boston.
Visitors can experience “The Embrace” by walking through its high arch.
"When you're standing inside the sculpture, you will be in the heart of their embrace," Thomas told Sunday Morning. "And when you really think about what happens when two people embrace one another, their hearts [line up]. You're inside the love of these two people. There are so many monuments to victims of war; there are very, very few monuments to love."
A full clip of the Sunday Morning interview is below.