Monday, June 4, 2012

Iwalked Washington D.C.’s Martin Luther King Jr., National Memorial

Iwalked Washington D.C.’s Martin Luther King Jr., National Memorial - The Martin Luther King Jr., National Memorial is the latest addition to the National Mall, having opened to the public on August 22, 2011. The $120 million memorial is situated on four-acres near the Jefferson Memorial and is entered through a massive stone (titled the Mountain of Despair) that has had the central portion cut out of it. Surrounding the centerpiece is a 450-foot crescent-shaped wall of granite known as the Inscription Wall. Etched within this wall is text from fourteen of Dr. King’s most noted speeches. The speeches selected range from the Montgomery Bus Boycotts in 1955 up until his final speech in Washington D.C. at the National Cathedral just four days before his assassination. Surprisingly, none of the quotes are from King’s most famous speech of, “I Have a Dream.”

Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Located within the heart of the memorial is a thirty-foot sculpture of Dr. King with arms folded titled the “Stone of Hope.” Although the work appears as one continuous piece, it was actually sculpted from one hundred fifty nine individual pieces of granite and assembled into the work you see now. Located on the side of the statue are two noted quotes from King. Inscribed on one side is, “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.” When asked how he would like to be remembered, this was the response which King provided. The second quote on the opposite side serves as fitting symbolism, “Out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the inspiration for this memorial, was assassinated on April 4, 1968. He had dedicated his life to peaceful protest and was taken from us too early at the age of thirty-nine when James Earl Ray shot King at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee while standing on the second-floor balcony. From 1979 through 1982 attempts were made to propose a national holiday honoring Dr. King. Finally on November 2, 1983 President Ronald Reagan signed a bill that formalized the holiday which would be celebrated on the third Monday of January each year, around the time of King’s birthday, January 15.

Efforts began to institute a national memorial further honoring King on November 12, 1996. On this date, President Clinton signed into legislation a bill that allowed for the creation of such a tributary monument in Washington D.C. The design competition included approximately nine hundred submissions from over 1900 firms across fifty-two countries. The winner selected was entry #1403 by the ROMA design group from San Francisco, California in September 2000. Groundbreaking would not occur until approximately six years later, on November 13, 2006. Attendees to this event included the likes of Oprah Winfrey and a then little known senator named Barrack Obama.

Although this memorial is already wrought with symbolism, the address selected for this site has been given further meaning. The address of 1964 Independence Avenue, SW is a nod to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the year in which King won the Nobel Peace Prize.