Feds to remove controversial MLK Memorial quote

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Local,DC,Alan Blinder

The federal government said Tuesday that it plans to remove a controversial quotation from the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial next year.

Although the King Memorial has been widely lauded for its architecture, the paraphrasing of a 1968 quote from King attracted criticism because some felt it made him appear conceited.

Preaching in Atlanta, King said, "Yes, 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."

But on the memorial, which opened in 2011, King is quoted as having said, "I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness."

After the uproar, the National Park Service said it planned to replace the paraphrased version with the full quote, but it backpedaled from that plan Tuesday and said it would erase the words entirely.

"The plan to remove, instead of replace, the quote was recommended by the original sculptor, Master Lei Yixin, as the safest way to ensure the structural integrity of the memorial was not compromised," the Department of Interior said in a statement.

The department said it plans to begin work on the memorial in February or March and will aim to finish the reconstruction by sometime in the spring.

The memorial will remain open while the quote is removed, though scaffolding could occasionally obstruct the statue.

"The memorial stands as a testament to Dr. King's struggle for civil rights and a dream of dignity, respect and justice for all," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said. "I am proud that all parties have come together on a resolution that will help ensure the structural integrity of this timeless and powerful monument to Dr. King's life and legacy."

The King family said it supported the plan.

"While our family would have of course preferred to have the entire 'Drum Major' quote used, we fully endorse and support the secretary's proposal," said Christine King Farris, the sister of the civil rights leader.SClBSClBThe Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission will review the plan after its formal submission in early 2013.

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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