Monday, January 11, 2016

9 interesting facts about the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

Every year on the third Monday of January, the United States honors and celebrates the accomplishments of Martin Luther King Jr. in his commitment to civil rights and social change. A firm advocate of non-violence, King affected the lives of many.

The newest memorial located on the National Mall, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial was opened in August 2011. An estimated 1 million people per year visit this site on the Mall.

Interesting facts about the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial


1. Congress authorized the memorial in 1996. A competition was held for the design with more than 900 entrants sending in designs. A ceremonial groundbreaking took place in 2006, and construction began in 2010.

2. The memorial was realized due to the efforts of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, to which King belonged. This idea was conceived around a dining room table back in 1984.

3. The memorial sits on four acres. Its centerpiece is a statue of King, the statue is 30 feet tall and overlooks the Tidal Basin. The statue was created by renowned artist Master Lei Yixin.  

4. Opened to the public in August 2011, the dedication was originally scheduled to occur on Aug. 28, the 48th anniversary of the March on Washington where Dr. King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial. However, Hurricane Irene caused a delay and the memorial was instead dedicated on Oct. 16.

5. The Memorial is made up of the statue of King, which is a part of the Stone of Hope, which emerges from two large granite boulders pictured below. These two boulders represent the Mountain of Despair to lead visitors to the Stone of Hope. This design was inspired by King’s famous speech with his words, “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”  

6. Surrounding the Stone of Hope and Mountain of Despair is a large wall which has numerous quotes by Dr. King. The wall is 450 feet long.

7. The King statue originally contained the phrase, “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness”. This was a shortened and paraphrased version of the original quote and was moved in the last phrases of construction because it was decided the "Out of the mountain..." quote should be seen as visitors entered. 

However, there was no room to make the switch of the two quotes. Famed poet Maya Angelou said the paraphrase made King appear as an “arrogant twit", saying it, "minimizes the man", reported the Washington Post in August 2011.  Angelou noted King was anything but arrogant. 

This photo was taken a few months before the controversial phrase was permanently removed.
8. The paraphrased quote remained in place until summer 2013 when it was removed. Today, as you can see in the photo below, King's statue does not contain any version of the quote. 

9. The King Memorial was built adjacent to the FDR Memorial and sits along the Tidal Basin. From the memorial, both the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials are in eye’s view. 

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is located at 1964 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, D.C. (commemorating the 1964 Civil Rights act). The memorial is open every day and NPS rangers are on site from 8 a.m. to 12 a.m.
This photo shows most of the MLK memorial (except the wall which you can see one small part of off to the right)


  1. I really need to get back to DC and see this memorial. Great photos and information.

    1. Thank you Isabelle. Hope you get to visit soon!