Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial: Wikis


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Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial (proposed)
IUCN Category V (Protected Landscape/Seascape)
Location Washington, D.C., USA
Coordinates 38°53′10″N 77°2′42″W / 38.88611°N 77.045°W / 38.88611; -77.045Coordinates: 38°53′10″N 77°2′42″W / 38.88611°N 77.045°W / 38.88611; -77.045
Established pending
Governing body U.S. Dept. of Interior

The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial is a program of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity to erect a monument to American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.[1] The monument will be located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Current plans are for the memorial to have three underlying themes: justice, democracy and hope — highlighted by the use of water, stone and trees respectively throughout the memorial.

King will be the first black man honored with a memorial in the National Mall area and the third non-president to be commemorated in such a way. The King Memorial will be administered by the National Park Service (NPS).

The process of designing, funding and constructing the memorial is being coordinated by a nonprofit organization, the Washington, D.C.-based Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation. At present, fundraising efforts for the memorial are continuing, and the foundation is trying to secure final construction permits. The foundation's leaders estimate the memorial will take 18 to 20 months to complete once construction has begun.


Project history

Plaque on the location of the memorial was laid by Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, having been initiated into the organization in the 1950s, while he was attending Boston University.[2] King remained involved with the fraternity after the completion of his studies, including delivering the keynote speech at the fraternity's 50th anniversary banquet in 1956.[2] In 1968, after King's assassination, Alpha Phi Alpha proposed erecting a permanent memorial to King in Washington, D.C. The fraternity's efforts gained momentum in 1986, after King's birthday was designated a national holiday.[3]

In 1996, the United States Congress authorized the Secretary of the Interior to permit Alpha Phi Alpha to establish a memorial on Department of Interior lands in the District of Columbia, giving the fraternity until November 2003 to raise $100 million and break ground. In 1998, Congress authorized the fraternity to establish a foundation — the Washington, D.C. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation — to manage the memorial's fundraising and design, and approved the building of the memorial on the National Mall. In 1999, the United States Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) and the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) approved the site location for the memorial.

The memorial's design, by ROMA Design Group, a San Francisco-based architecture firm, was selected out of 900 candidates from 52 countries. On December 4, 2000, a marble and bronze plaque was laid by Alpha Phi Alpha to dedicate the site where the memorial will be built.[4] Soon thereafter, a full-time fundraising team began the fundraising and promotional campaign for the memorial. A ceremonial groundbreaking for the memorial was held on November 13, 2006, in West Potomac Park.

The cost estimate for the memorial was raised to $120 million in August 2008.[5] As of December 2008, the Martin Luther King National Memorial Project Foundation had raised approximately $108 million,[6] including substantial contributions from such donors as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation,[5] The Walt Disney Company Foundation, the National Association of Realtors,[7] and filmmaker George Lucas. The figure also includes $10 million in matching funds provided by the United States Congress.

In October 2009, the memorial's final design was approved by federal agencies and a building permit was issued.[8] The project's leaders have estimated construction will take between 18 and 20 months from the time it is begun.

Location and structure

The King Memorial will be located on a 4-acre (16,000 m2) site on the National Mall that borders the Tidal Basin. It will be adjacent to the Roosevelt Memorial and will create a visual "line of leadership" from the Lincoln Memorial, where King gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech at the March on Washington, to the Jefferson Memorial.

The memorial will contain 24 niches (semicircular nave-like shapes) along the upper walkway to commemorate the contribution of the many individuals that gave their lives in different ways to the civil rights movement – from Medgar Evers to the four children murdered in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham.

A number of the niches will be left open and incomplete, allowing additional niches to be dedicated as new events unfold in the dynamic civil rights movement.



Fees to King family

In 2001, the foundation's efforts to build the memorial were stalled because the civil rights leader's family wanted the foundation to pay licensing fees to use his name and likeness in marketing campaigns. The memorial's foundation, beset by delays and a languid pace of donations, stated that "the last thing it needs is to pay an onerous fee to the King family." Joseph Lowery, past president of the King-founded Southern Christian Leadership Conference stated in the The Washington Post, "If nobody's going to make money off of it, why should anyone get a fee?"[9] The family pledged that any money derived would go back to the King Center's charitable efforts. Eventually an agreement was reached between the foundation and the King family, and no fee was paid at that time.

However, in 2009 reports surfaced that King's family had been paid nearly $800,000 in 2007 alone for King's name and image to appear in the foundation's marketing materials for his memorial. Pulitzer Prize-winning King biographer David Garrow said of the news, "I don't think the Jefferson family, the Lincoln family ... I don't think any other group of family ancestors has been paid a licensing fee for a memorial in Washington. One would think any family would be so thrilled to have their forefather celebrated and memorialized in D.C. that it would never dawn on them to ask for a penny."[10]

The Pew Charitable Trusts, which gave $1 million to the memorial project, announced that it had not been previously aware of the licensing fees paid to the family and would request that its donation be used only for memorial construction.[10]

Conflicts among federal agencies

Further delay was encountered in 2008, due to a disagreement among the three federal agencies which must approve the memorial. The memorial design that was approved by the CFA and the NCPC was not approved by the NPS, due to security concerns. The NPS insisted upon the inclusion of a barrier which would prevent a vehicle from crashing into the memorial area. However, when the original design was submitted to the other two agencies, including such a barrier, the CFA and the NCPC rejected the barrier as being restrictive in nature, which would run counter to King's philosophy of freedom and openness.[11] Eventually, a compromise was reached involving the use of landscaping to make the security barriers appear less intrusive upon the area.[12] The compromise plan was approved in October 2009,[12] clearing the way for construction of the memorial to begin.[8]

Sculptor and stone choice

It was announced in January 2007 that Lei Yixin, an artist from the People's Republic of China, would sculpt the centerpiece of the memorial, including the statue of King[13] and the "Stone of Hope". The commission was criticized by human rights activist Harry Wu on the grounds that Lei had sculpted Mao Zedong. It also stirred accusations that it was based on financial considerations, because the Chinese government would make a $25 million donation to help meet the projected shortfall in donations. The president of the memorial's foundation, Harry E. Johnson, who first met Lei in a sculpting workshop in Saint Paul, Minnesota, stated that the final selection was done by a mostly African American design team and was based solely on artistic ability.[14]

Gilbert Young, an African American artist known for a work of art entitled He Ain't Heavy, led a protest against the decision to hire Lei by launching the website King Is Ours.[15] Human rights activist and arts advocate Ann Lau and American stone carver Clint Button joined Young and national talk show host Joe Madison in advancing the protest when the use of Chinese granite was discovered.[16] Lau decried the human rights record of the Chinese government and asserted that the granite would be mined by workers forced to toil in unsafe and unfair conditions.[17] Button argued that the $10 million in federal money that has been authorized for the King project required it to be subject to an open bidding process.[18]

The memorial's design team visited China in October 2006 to inspect potential granite to be used.[19] The project's foundation has argued that the quality of the Chinese granite exceeds that which can be found in the United States.[20]

Young's King Is Ours petition demands that an African American artist and American granite be used for the national monument, arguing the importance of such selections as a part of the memorial's legacy. The petition has received support from American granite workers[21][22] and from the California State Conference of the NAACP.[23][24]

In May 2008, the CFA, one of the agencies which must approve all elements of the memorial, raised concerns about "the colossal scale and Social Realist style of the proposed sculpture," noting that it "recalls a genre of political sculpture that has recently been pulled down in other countries."[20] The commission did, however, approve the final design in September 2008.[11]

Bottom button fastened

A photograph of Lei Yixin's model for the statue, published in the New York Times on May 18, 2008,[20] shows the bottom button of King's suit coat buttoned, contrary to the convention that the bottom button of a single-breasted suit is traditionally left unfastened, as well as to King's own practice.


  1. ^ "Martin Luther King, Jr.". Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Eta Lambda chapter. Retrieved 2008-12-31.  
  2. ^ a b Wesley, Charles H. (1981). The History of Alpha Phi Alpha, A Development in College Life (14th ed.). Chicago, IL: Foundation. pp. 381–386. ASIN: B000ESQ14W.  
  3. ^ Gray, Butler T. (2006). "National Mall Site Chosen for Memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.". Retrieved 2008-12-12.  
  4. ^ Wheeler, Linda (2000-12-05). "'Sacred Ground' Dedicated to King; Plaque Placed at Site of Memorial for Civil Rights Leader". The Washington Post (Washington, D.C.). Retrieved 16 April 2009.  
  5. ^ a b "King Memorial Raises Goal by $20 Million". Associated Press. Alpha Phi Alpha. 2008-08-13.{C6725C23-D756-48E3-9DAE-9A962AC9C42B}&notoc=1. Retrieved 2009-04-16.  
  6. ^ Malone, Julie (2008-12-04). "Rights pioneers visit King site"]. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  
  7. ^ "NAR Donates $1 Million to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial". National Association of Realtors. Retrieved 2007-10-20.  
  8. ^ a b Zongker, Brett. (2009, October 29). "Construction to begin on King memorial in DC", Associated Press
  9. ^ Fears, Darryl (2002-04-08). "Entrepreneurship of Profiteering? Critics Say King's Family Is Dishonoring His Legacy". Retrieved 2007-10-20.  
  10. ^ a b "King Family Takes Fees From Funds Raised for the MLK Memorial Project". Associated Press (Fox News). 2009-04-17.,2933,517025,00.html. Retrieved 2009-04-17.  
  11. ^ a b Schwartzman, Paul. (2008, December 4). "Dispute Over Security Delays Construction", The Washington Post
  12. ^ a b Ruane, Michael E. (2009, October 27). "Start of MLK memorial's construction all but secured", The Washington Post
  13. ^ "Chinese master sculptor to produce MLK memorial carving". CNN. 2007-02-15.  
  14. ^ Cha, Ariana Eunjung (2007-08-14). "A King Statue 'Made in China'?". Arts & Living. The Washington Post.  
  15. ^ Young, Gilbert; Lea Winfrey Young. "King is Ours". The He Ain't Heavy Foundation. Retrieved 2007-10-20.  
  16. ^ Lau, Ann (2007-09-18). "Dissing MLK". National Review. Retrieved 2007-10-20.  
  17. ^ 2007-08-24 International Herald Tribune, "Martin Luther King, Jr. monument planners criticized for selecting Chinese sculptor for job"
  18. ^ 2007-11-15, The Randolph Herald, "Button: Event raised profile of MLK project"
  19. ^ "History of the Memorial". Washington, DC Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, Inc. Retrieved 2007-10-20.  
  20. ^ a b c Shaila Dewan. ""Larger Than Life, More to Fight Over"". New York Times, New York Times, Inc. Retrieved 2008-05-18.  
  21. ^ 2007-11-08, Times Argus
  22. ^ 2007-11-09, Burlington Free Press
  23. ^ 2007-11-28, San Francisco Chronicle
  24. ^ 2007-10-29, California State NAACP Resolution #11

External links


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