On Monday, August 22nd, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D. C. was opened for visitors. The official dedication of the memorial was scheduled to take place on Sunday, August 28th (indefinitely posted by Hurricane Irene), the 48th anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom before over 200,000 people. The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation notes that this is the first memorial on the National Mall “to honor a man of hope, a man of peace, and a man of color.” The memorial, according to the project’s mission statement, honors Dr. King for “his national and international contributions to world peace through non-violent social change.” A virtual tour of the memorial is available on the Foundation’s website.
The 120 million dollar memorial is located on the Tidal Basin adjacent to the FDR Memorial, and its line of sight connects it with the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials. The project was launched in 1996 when President Clinton signed a resolution to build a memorial in honor of Dr. King. Groundbreaking for the project took place on November 13, 2006. The origins of the idea for memorial is traceable to January, 1984, when George Sealy met with four fellow Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity brothers to develop a proposal for building a national King memorial. As with most projects of this type, it origins were small and informal. It then had to proceed through numerous associational and institutional gates as public and private support for the project was developed. The bureaucratic and procedural steps involved were formidable; and the long process had many controversial elements, including its design, the selection of Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin, the use of Chinese granite, and the $800,000 of licensing fees charged to the Foundation by the King family for the use of Dr. King’s words and image in fundraising materials. McKissack & McKissack/Turner/Gilford/ Tompkins are the design-build team. All the principals are American, and many have strong connections with businesses . . .