Martin Luther King Jr Memorial

January 27, 2012 by staff 

Martin Luther King Jr Memorial, Last week, many Americans who benefitted from the federal holiday not only took the day off, but sincerely reflected upon the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Americans who value their freedoms took more than a moment to consider the value of what this individual represented to advancing freedom in the United States and throughout the world.

Ironically, the essence of what Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. represented to posterity was also the focus of the recent controversy over the Martin Luther King, Jr. Monument in Washington, D.C. Poet Maya Angelou denounced the inscription on the side of the monument, saying it made King appear as “an arrogant twit” and it misrepresented his character.

Many agreed with her, because the Friday before Dr. King’s holiday, Secretary of the Department of the Interior Ken Salazar gave the National Park Service a month to go back to the King Memorial Foundation to come up with a more acceptable quote.

The delayed response is surprising, since the memorial opened in D.C. last August. Even more surprising, Maya Angelou was among the memorial’s Council of Historians tasked to select possible inscriptions for the memorial. According to Ed Jackson Jr., the executive architect of the project, Ms. Angelou did not participate in the meetings.

What is most alarming is that the quote was shortened by the architect because of “space constraints.” Jackson pointed out that the project planners explained the shortened version of the quote to the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, which approved the memorial’s design. However, critics say the excerpt taken from one of Rev. King’s sermons not only shortens the exact series of words, but as Angelou has pointed out, also distorts the meaning. The shortened version also distorts the character of Martin Luther King, Jr.

The carved inscription uses words from the “Drum Major Instinct” Sermon. Dr. King delivered the sermon to his congregation in Atlanta in February of 1968, two months before James Earl Ray assassinated him. Eerily, Dr. King spoke about how he would like people to remember him after he passed away. The words on the memorial lose the sentiment of the sermon and inaccurately make it seem like King wanted people to remember him primarily as a drum major.

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