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Highlights of the National Mall
Item 5 of 18

In 1996, Congress authorized the creation of a memorial for Dr. Martin Luther King. Construction of the King Memorial began in 2010, with the public dedication of the monument on August 28, 2011. Visitors to the Memorial can reflect upon the life and legacy of Dr. King as they read selected quotes from various parts of King's life that are carved into a granite wall behind the statue of King. The memorial is surrounded by cherry trees and the Tidal Basin, and is near the FDR Memorial. There is a bookstore located near the memorial that offers a wide variety of books and other items related to the history of King and the civil rights movement. The National Park Service also offers guides and special programs led by park rangers throughout the day.


  • The memorial was dedicated on August 28, 2011, the 48th anniversary of the March on Washington that featured MLK's iconic "I Have a Dream" speech.
  • Taylor Branch, Parting the Waters : America in the King Years 1954-63-click the link below for more information about this book.
  • The artist depicts King within the "Stone of Hope," which she depicts as being carved out of the "Mountain of Despair"-the wall in the background. The gap in the wall was designed to give a clear view of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.
The memorial was the result of two decades of planning and fund-raising led by Alpha Phi Alpha, an African America fraternity that King joined in 1952. The memorial was made possible by thousands of individual donations totaling over $100 million. Te completion of the memorial marked the first time that an African American leader was commemorated with a statue on or adjacent to the National Mall. Sculptor Lei Yixin designed the memorial, which depicts King as part of "The Stone of Hope" emerging from "The Wall of Despair." 

The completion of the memorial appeared in jeopardy when King's children demanded payment for the use of King's likeness and quotes. The resulting conflict marred the completion and dedication of the memorial in ways many historians claimed would have deeply concerned the slain civil rights leader.

The statue of King originally included a paraphrased quote by King that also led to controversy. Maya Angelou petitioned for the removal of the phrase " "I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness" from the side of the statue of King, for two main reasons. First, the paraphrased quote was not accurate and lacked the full context of the longer quote. Second, many activists and historians believed that the paraphrased quote, without any context or background, supported the impression that King was egotistical. Defenders of the original statue design explained that they had edited King's quote so that it better fit on the side of the statue. In 2012, the Secretary of the Interior ordered the removal of the quote. 
Dellinger, Hampton. Righting Two Martin Luther King Memorial Wrongs. The Atlantic. January 21, 2003. Accessed January 15, 2017. http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/01/righting-two-martin-luther-king-memorial-wrongs/266944/.

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