MLK Memorial “Drum Major” Quote to Be Removed

By Brett Zongker, Associated Press Interior Secretary Ken Salazar endorsed a plan this week to remove a disputed inscription from the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, rather than cut into the granite to replace it with a fuller quotation. Salazar said he had reached an agreement with King’s family, the group that built the memorial and the National Park Service to remove a paraphrase from King’s “Drum Major” speech by carving grooves over the lettering to match existing marks in the sculpture. Memorial sculptor Lei Yixin recommended removing the inscription this way to avoid harming the monument’s structural integrity. Critics including poet Maya Angelou complained after the memorial opened in 2011 that the paraphrased quotation took King’s words out of context, making him sound arrogant. The paraphrase reads: “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.” The full quotation was taken from a 1968 sermon about two months before King was assassinated. It reads: “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.” In a statement provided to the Associated Press, Salazar explained the resolution of the long disagreement over the inscription and how it should be repaired. “I am proud that all parties have come together on a resolution that will help ensure the structural integrity of this timeless and powerful monument to Dr. King’s life and legacy,” Salazar said. Work is scheduled to begin after the presidential inauguration, which falls on the King holiday, to commence in February or March with completion expected in the spring, according to federal officials. The National Park Service expects thousands of people to visit the site around the time of King’s birthday in January and didn’t want to obstruct their views.
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