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Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial

Slain Civil Rights Leader Honored by Washington DC Monument

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Dr. King's famous I have a dream speech inspired the design of a national memorial built in his honor.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington DC

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington DC

Photo © Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
The memorial to civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. sets on Washington DC's National Mall between the Jefferson Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial. Soaring 30 feet high, the granite carving of Dr. King is the tallest sculpture on the Mall, more than 10 feet taller than Lincoln's statue.

Chinese artist Lei Yixin and his team carved the enormous sculpture from 159 blocks of granite, including Atlantic Green granite, Kenoran Sage granite, and granite from Asia. The sculpture appears to emerge from ragged stone. ROMA Design Group, the San Francisco architecture firm that designed the project, drew inspiration from words that Dr. King delivered in 1963 as he stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial: "With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope." (Read the complete speech: I Have a Dream)

More than a decade went into constructing the memorial project. Ed Jackson Jr., the executive architect for the Memorial, worked with Lei Yixin to develop sculpture that would convey wisdom and strength without appearing aggressive or confrontational. The slow process required many revisions.

The National Memorial opened to the public on August 22, 2011 and was officially dedicated on August 28, 2011, the 48th anniversary of Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech.

Features of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial

  • A 30-foot sculpture of Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • A 450-foot long crescent-shaped wall inscribed with excerpts from King's speeches
  • A walkway lined with smaller monuments to persons who lost their lives in the quest for civil rights.

From a Mountain of Despair comes a Stone of Hope, the sculpture of King by Chinese Master Lei Yixin. Wide grooves and chiseled channels on the sides of the Chinese granite sculpture symbolize Hope being pulled and torn from the rock of Despair.

Controversy at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial

One of the quotes on the enormous Memorial statue was shortened. Lead architect Ed Jackson Jr. defended his decision to approve the amended quote, but critics said that the revised verbiage created a false impression of the slain civil rights leader. After much debate, sculptor Lei Yixin removed disputed quote and repaired the carving. Learn more:

Learn More About the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial in Washington, DC

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