MLK memorial engraving to be removed
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.