MLK memorial unveiled this weekend on the National Mall

New MLK memorial on the National Mall

On April 19, 1965, a special guest came over to my mother’s house for dinner. My mom celebrated her 10th birthday on this day. All of her 5 siblings and cousins were excited for the special dinner guest. No one seemed to be as excited as my mom that she was officially double digits! The special dinner guest stepped through the front door and approached my mom to hand her a crisp $1 dollar bill for her birthday. The family then went into the dining room for a delicious meal of meatloaf and mashed potatoes. My mom looked at the man strangely as he motioned to put ketchup (yes ketchup) on his mashed potatoes. “Gross!” my mom thought.

The dinner meeting was organized with my grandfather, a local baptist preacher, to launch civil rights activities in the area. The special dinner guest was Martin Luther King, Jr.

Forty-six years later, the icon Martin Luther King, Jr. has a new memorial that is set to be unveiled in Washington, D.C. The National Mall, where he became a household name to many Americans, will have for the first time a memorial not honoring a former president or fallen soldier.

The structure is a massive 30-foot granite sculpture with a crescent shaped wall with his most notable speeches engraved in the back. The memorial’s website describes the memorial as having the spirit of Dr. King:

The entire memorial invokes the memory and spiritual presence of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through the visual experience of place, reinforced by the full range of sensory perception, the metaphorical use of water, stone and other landscape elements, the powerful display of passages from his sermons and speeches and the appearance of his physical image in the “Stone of Hope”.

Martin Luther King, Jr. the civil rights legend will finally be cemented in his proper place on the National Mall. While he was here he was a man fighting non-violently for equality and justice for everyone and now his work and universal message will live on in memorial form. One very poignant inscription on the memorial reads:

World peace through nonviolent means is neither absurd nor unattainable. All other methods have failed. Thus we must begin anew. Nonviolence is a good starting point. Those of us who believe in this method can be voices of reason, sanity, and understanding amid the voices of violence, hatred, and emotion. We can very well set a mood of peace out of which a system of peace can be built.

– Martin Luther King, Jr. December 1964

Check out more amazing photos of the memorial.

Join the Conversation

  • 43t9 fisl

    He’d be aghast. The real Martin Luther King Jr. was a revolutionary, a socialist, and a possible existential threat to the legacy of murder, racism, and tyranny emblematic of the United States and its rulers. There was a collective sigh of relief out of Washington when he was assassinated, and now they mock his memory by marketing his image with this exploitative schlock. Barf.

  • James

    I visited the memorial last night with some friends, and was really impressed by it… it’s a very well-done memorial, very spatially evocative, and to my surprise the memorial highlighted his whole legacy and thought—including the parts that the modern conservatives skip, like his opposition to the Vietnam War and his general work for peace, and his concern for the poor. (They perhaps could have emphasized his socialism a bit more, I think, but there’s only so much room on the memorial.)

    It was also great of the Park Service to give DC residents a chance to see the memorial early, given not only his history here but also the fact that it’s now part of our city’s landscape.

    • toongrrl

      Vietnam War opposition (something I learned in High School), peace work with a Nobel Peace Prize (Awesome and a no brainer), concern for the poor (nothing less I expect from him), and Socialist politics.
      All this would’ve made Black History month learning in school (K-12) more interesting