Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Flawed quote to be replaced on King Memorial

A quotation by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., clumsily shortened when inscribed in granite on his memorial on the National Mall in Washington, will be replaced and his full words restored, officials said Friday.

Interior Secretary Kan Salazar and National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis said the correction to the so-called drum major quotation will more accurately reflect King's original meaning in a sermon he delivered two months before he was assassinated in 1968.

The memorial was dedicated last fall.

King spoke the famed words to the congregation of Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he critiqued the "drum major instinct," shorthand for a showboat who leads the parade. Imagining his own eulogy, King made it clear he wanted to be remembered for a higher purpose.

"If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice," he said. "Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all the other shallow things will not matter."

When carved into granite on the north face of the memorial's centerpiece, a 30-foot-tall statue of King emerging from a huge block of stone, the 45 words in the quotation were boiled down to 10 words so as to fit the limited space available: I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.

Anger and dismay over the quotation grew after Rachel Manteuffel wrote an opinion piece in the Washington Post last summer drawing attention to the awkward abridgement.

Poet and author Maya Angelou said that the truncated version made him sound egotistical and boastful, like an "arrogant twit."

Ed Jackson Jr., the executive architect of the $120 million memorial project, objected to the plan.

He said removing the inscription will amount to "defacing" the memorial because any new granite would be a noticeably different color.

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