Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. long ago established his place in American and world history as a champion of peace and civil rights. Now a monument and memorial have been erected in a place and on a scale befitting the man and his legacy.
The Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial in Washington, D.C., is located on the National Mall in what officials are calling a direct “line of leadership,” positioned directly between the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials with the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and the Washington Monument on each side.
“We felt he would be right at home here,” said an architect working on the project.
The memorial’s address is appropriately 1964 Independence Ave. SW.
King is the first African American (and the first individual who was not a president) to be commemorated in such a fashion on the National Mall.
The dedication of the memorial is scheduled for Aug. 28, with President Barack Obama among the many dignitaries who will address attendees. However, a week of activities have been planned, including a luncheon to honor women civil rights leaders; recognition of global leaders for peace; honoring of past, present and future pioneer as well as two concerts.
While granting media early access to the site, officials have not wanted to lessen the impact of the dedication and the official reveal and did not allow photography of King’s sculpture.
However, here are highlights of the memorial:
- 14 quotes from King’s speeches and writings
- Granite from Minnesota and Canada for the 450-foot wall that bears quotes
- Granite for Mountain of Despair and Stone of Hope from China
- 182 cherry trees, 31 American elms and seven crape myrtle trees
- Three entrance points, including the tidal base walkway
- Water feature on one side of the Mountain of Despair
- Integrated throughout are the themes: justice, democracy, hope and love.
The combination of elements makes for a space that is tranquil yet powerful. By design, it is stimulating to the senses and evokes King’s spiritual presence. While it is expected to be a place of reflection, officials also call it a “living memorial” and hope it will spur visitors to carry on King’s legacy.
Of course, the most commanding element is the 30-foot-tall sculpture of King emerging from the Stone of Hope with the twin Mountain of Despair sculptures in the background.
While 14 quotes of King are engraved throughout the site, words from his most famous “I Have a Dream” speech are noticeably absent. Executive Architect Ed Jackson Jr., Ph.D. said the speech is so well known that the committee thought it important to highlight other lesser known but equally significant words from King.
It has taken nearly three decades to bring the notion of a national memorial to King to reality. Members of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity came up with the idea of a memorial to their frat brother Martin Luther King Jr. and for years lobbied leaders on Capitol Hill for support, according to Jackson. A plethora of hurdles impeded the project. Georgia Congressmen John Lewis co-authored the legislation authorizing the memorial. At one point, he and his congressional colleague Hank Johnson toured Stone Mountain exploring the possibility of using local stone for the memorial.
For more information about the dedication or the King memorial, visit www.mlkmemorial.org.