MLK Monument Architect Defends Paraphrased Quotation

fewhite2 MLK Monument Architect Defends Paraphrased Quotation

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C., with the quotation. (Photo: F. E. White / Flickr)

Though poet Maya Angelou has argued that an inscription on the side of the recently unveiled, poorly reviewed Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C., makes the civil-rights leader “look like an arrogant twit,” the monument’s architect has told The Washington Post that the controversial quotation will stay.

The line in question, cut into the side of the structure reads, “I was a drum major for justice, peace, and righteousness.” However, it turns out that it was actually paraphrased from a lengthier and far more nuanced quotation from Dr. King.

What Dr. King in fact said was, “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.” This sounds quite a bit different to The Observer’s ears.

The architect behind the project, Ed Jackson Jr., has said that space issues were partially to blame for the shortened phrase, but he has also defended the new wording. “The word ‘if’ suggests that … he’s not sure of who he was,” Mr. Jackson said. “We have the historical perspective… [to] say emphatically he was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.”

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