Lei Yixin, the sculptor chosen to mold King's figure, is Chinese, not American, and some have taken issue with his depiction of King.
Ed Dwight, a sculptor who worked on the project, said Yixin's design does not properly portray King's peaceful nature.
"He totally missed the boat here. Dr. King didn't look like that. He never wore clothes like that," Dwight said. "People are upset about his arms folded, the very strong look he has on his face.
"If you flew in here from Mars you'll never know what he did, because there's nothing on the memorial that says what he did -- nothing about Selma, nothing about Memphis," he said. "Maybe rightly so they wanted to use these elevating, high lofty sayings, but I was more concerned about young kids walking in there and not being able to interpret what all that means."
Because King's family has copyrighted the civil rights leader's words and images, the memorial foundation had to pay more than $800,000 in fees to use King's likeness in the memorial.
The King memorial is the only one on the mall that does not celebrate a president or honor a war, but many visitors said Monday that the civil rights leader deserves to be there.
Bill and Barbara Frame of Medford Lakes, N.J., bring a group of middle school children for a tour of Washington each year and said they look forward to adding the MLK memorial to their tour itinerary.
"It's about great people in our country's history. It's not about whether you're president or not. You could pick out great presidents, and you could pick out mediocre presidents, but this man was just a great man," Bill Frame said. "It's a way for them to reflect back to the legacy to remember. The Vietnam wall when it opened there was controversy, but now it's a must-see place to go and I believe this will become that also."
Tyrone Ward of Woodbridge, Va., brought his 10-year-old son Branson to teach him the importance of King's life.
"It means steps in the right direction. This was an intangible dream initially, but it's become tangible through time, through understanding, through cultures accepting one another's lifestyle," Ward said. "I implore everybody to bring their kids. You can't just let Martin Luther King be in the history books. This is a tangible honor of who he was."
The nation's capitol will celebrate King, his legacy and leadership in the civil rights movement, and the new memorial throughout the week. The memorial organization plans luncheons Wednesday and Thursday to honor civil rights pioneers, as well as the women leaders of the civil rights movement.
A concert honoring the music of the civil rights era, "The Message in the Music," is scheduled for Thursday night, and Saturday evening is the Dream Gala, followed by the official memorial dedication Sunday afternoon.
President Obama, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, King's family and other key figures from the civil rights era are all scheduled to speak at the dedication ceremony Sunday.