Inscription on Martin Luther King Memorial Removed

By Alana Abramson

Aug 2, 2013 12:18pm
AP mlk quote removed jef 130802 16x9 608 Inscription on Martin Luther King Memorial Removed

Sculptor Master Lei Yixin, left, surveys the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, July 29, 2013, to prepare for removal of the "Drum Major"  inscription.

A paraphrased quotation that aroused dispute was removed from the Martin Luther King memorial monument in Washington, D.C., Thursday.

Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin, who designed the memorial, is now working on a finish so that all parts of the sculpture  will match.

The disputed quote read: “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.”

The quote was a paraphrase from King’s “Drum Major” speech that he gave on Feb. 4, 1968, two months before he was assassinated at the Ebenezer Baptist Church.

In the original speech, King said: Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice; say that I was a drum major for peace; I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.”

Among the critics was former U.S. poet laureate Maya Angelou, who said the truncated quote distorted King’s meaning. In 2011, she told The Washington Post:  ”It makes him seem less than the humanitarian he was. … It makes him seem an egotist.”

HT martin luther king nt 130802 16x9 608 Inscription on Martin Luther King Memorial Removed

Tami Heilemann/NPS

Lei recommended that the quote be removed instead of replaced because removal was the safest way of keeping the original structure intact, according to the National Park Service.

The refurbished memorial, according to the National Park Service, will be ready for the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights March on Washington on Aug. 28.  

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