The Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington, D.C., was unveiled on August 28, 2011. It has since proved hugely popular, with an estimated 1.5 to 2 million visitors in its first year. It has also proved controversial.
As Art Daily reports, several public figures complained about an inscription on the memorial that reads, “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.” The inscription is not in quotes because it’s actually a paraphrase of what King said. His actual words were, “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.”
Leading poet Maya Angelou told the Washington Post that the paraphrase makes King look like “an arrogant twit.” She went on to say that the civil rights leader was anything but arrogant and the paraphrase “minimizes the man.”
Now the full quote will be included. In September or October, after the summer tourist rush is over, two sculptors will change the quote.
The statue’s other inscription hasn’t caused any controversy. It reads, “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”
A number of the parks and monuments will be honoring the civil rights activist with special ceremonies and events throughout the weekend. The newly opened MLK Memorial in Washington, D.C., for instance, will have rangers on hand to discuss Dr. King’s pivotal role in seeking equality for all races, while the MLK National Historic Site in Georgia will host a special program on Sunday that examines King’s legacy.
Of course, there are always a host of other activities to do in the parks as well and the winter months often bring unique opportunities to these scenic places. I’d recommend snowshoeing in Yellowstone, hiking in Yosemite, or even paddling the Everglades. After all, without an entrance fee, there’s no excuse not to go.
If you can’t make it to your favorite park this weekend, never fear. The Park Service has a number of other free days scheduled for the year, with your next opportunity coming on April 21-29 in celebration of National Park Week.
For a complete list of the national parks that will be fee-free this weekend, click here.
Want to know where to head for MLK weekend? Hotwire just announced the top 10 most booked destinations travelers are visiting over Martin Luther King Day weekend.
Several cities have historic significance, including Atlanta, where Martin Luther King Jr. he received his B.A. degree at Morehouse College and where the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Center was founded as well as Chicago, was the first state to adopt MLK as a state holiday. Public pressure for the holiday mounted during the 1982 and 1983 civil rights marches in Washington.
According to results from Hotwire’s American Travel Behavior survey, 74% of people would rather take several smaller vacations over the year than one big one.
So here’s an impromptu poll – will you be traveling this MLK weekend, and if so, will you be visiting one of the ten most popular destinations?
Although the formal dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial in Washington, DC, is not until August 28 (as we indicated in this post last week), the memorial officially opened on Monday. I was among the hundreds of tourists and locals that visited the new MLK Memorial and below are some photos I took of the site.
To give you a sense of what you will be looking at, the King Memorial is situated between the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials on four acres of the National Mall overlooking the Tidal Basin. One enters the King Memorial through a “mountain of despair,” symbolism mentioned in Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech:
“With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.”
Beyond the mountain of despair lies the “stone of hope,” from which a 30-foot marble statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. emerges. Surrounding the central statue of Dr. King are low, granite walls inscribed with 14 quotes from Dr. King’s speeches.
The MLK Memorial is located on four acres on the Tidal Basin, site of Washington’s famous Japanese cherry trees, and sits within a “line of leadership” between the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials. The line ties Dr. King to President Lincoln, author of the Emancipation Proclamation and on whose memorial Dr. King gave his “Dream” speech, and Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence. “Peace” and “independence” are two of the main themes of the MLK Memorial, even down to the Memorial’s official address. The street number in the address 1964 Independence Ave, SW, Washington, DC 20024 refers to the Civil Right’s Act of 1964.
Although it does not open for another week, would-be visitors can watch the construction cam to watch workers put the finishing touches on the King Memorial. The video below also provides more information about the memorial, its location, design, and landscaping.