MLK me­mo­rial en­grav­ing to be re­moved

Austin American-Statesman - - THE SECOND FRONT - By Brett Zongker

WASHINGTON — In­te­rior Sec­re­tary Ken Salazar en­dorsed a plan Tues­day to re­move a dis­puted in­scrip­tion from the Martin Luther King Jr. Me­mo­rial, rather than cut into the gran­ite to re­place it with a fuller quo­ta­tion.

Salazar said he had reached an agree­ment with the King fam­ily, the group that built the me­mo­rial and the Na­tional Park Ser­vice to re­move a para­phrase from King’s “Drum Ma­jor” speech by carv­ing grooves over the let­ter­ing to match ex­ist­ing marks in the sculp­ture. Me­mo­rial sculp­tor Lei Yixin rec­om­mended re­mov­ing the in­scrip­tion this way to avoid harm­ing the mon­u­ment’s struc­tural in­tegrity.

Crit­ics, which in­clude poet Maya An­gelou, com­plained af­ter the me­mo­rial opened in 2011 that the para­phrased quo­ta­tion took King’s words out of con­text, mak­ing him sound ar­ro­gant. The para­phrase reads: “I was a drum ma­jor for jus­tice, peace and right­eous­ness.”

The full quo­ta­tion was taken from a 1968 ser­mon King gave about two months be­fore he was as­sas­si­nated. It reads: “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.”

In a state­ment, Salazar ex­plained the res­o­lu­tion of the long dis­agree­ment over the in­scrip­tion and how it should be re­paired. “I am proud that all par­ties have come to­gether on a res­o­lu­tion that will help en­sure the struc­tural in­tegrity of this time­less and pow­er­ful monu- ment to Dr. King’s life and legacy,” Salazar said.

Work is sched­uled to be­gin af­ter the pres­i­den­tial in­au­gu­ra­tion, in Fe­bru­ary or March of 2013, with com­ple­tion ex­pected in the spring, ac­cord­ing to fed­eral of­fi­cials.

The Na­tional Park Ser­vice ex­pects thou­sands of peo­ple to visit the site around the time of King’s birth­day in Jan­uary and didn’t want to ob­struct their views.

Fed­eral of­fi­cials will sub­mit plans to two pan­els that must re­view and ap­prove the de­sign work.

Lei, the sculp­tor, will per­form the stone work to re­move the in­scrip­tion. The me­mo­rial will re­main open to vis­i­tors dur­ing the project, though the statue of King may be ob­structed at times by scaf­fold­ing.

In a joint state­ment re­leased by the U.S. In­te­rior De­part­ment, King’s fam­ily voiced sup­port for the new plan.

Ed Jack­son Jr., the me­mo­rial’s ex­ec­u­tive ar­chi­tect, said the let­ter­ing will be re­placed with hor­i­zon­tal “move­ment lines” that are al­ready part of the de­sign.


An in­scrip­tion on the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Me­mo­rial in Washington, D.C., that reads ‘I was a drum ma­jor for jus­tice, peace and right­eous­ness’ will be re­moved rather than re­placed.

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