Thursday 25 Aug, 2011

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

Charles Dharapark / AP Photo

updated August 26, 2011 10:27 EST

Just about half a mile away from where Dr. Martin Luther King gave his indelible “I Have a Dream” speech, a 30-foot sculpture of the civil rights leader looks over the National Mall’s Tidal Basin.

The newly unveiled Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial opened to the public Monday, August 22, and was scheduled to be officially dedicated on August 28, the 48th anniversary of Dr. King’s delivery of “I Have a Dream.” Because of the threat of Hurricane Irene, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial dedication has been postponed.

Around the memorial sculpture are the iconic Tidal Basic cherry trees, American elms and a 450-foot crescent carved with King quotations.

See a map of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on the National Mall.


Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial By the Numbers

4 number of acres dedicated to the memorial (this includes the King sculpture, quotation wall and green space)

30 feet high the likeness of Dr. King stands

48 years between Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial and this dedication of a memorial in King’s honor

52 number of countries represented by the more than 900 entries for the memorial’s design competition

120 millions of dollars needed to take this monument from idea to reality

450 feet long of the crescent quotation wall surrounding the memorial

1,700 tons of granite imported to make the 3 main sculptures of the memorial

1996 year President Clinton signed legislation proposing the memorial to honor Dr. King in Washington, D.C.


Design Inspiration

The ROMA Design Group won the design competition with a design inspired by the phrase: “With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope,” from Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Visitors will enter through a narrowed passage, a “Mountain of Despair.”

“The symbolic meaning behind that is to give the visitor the experience of feeling like going through a struggle,” says senior project manager Lisa Anders in an interview with “If you can imagine a large crowd here, everyone is trying to get through to see the memorial.”

Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin’s “Stone of Hope” depicts King emerging from a rocky mountainside and facing over the Tidal Basin.

Some had voiced disappointment about a non-American sculptor taking on the depiction of an American.

“I knew of Dr. King since I was a teenager,” Yixin says, “He’s not only a hero of Americans, he’s a hero of the world. His vision of equality for the world is universal and everyone should pursue the dream.”


Learn more about Martin Luther King Jr.

Smithsonian Magazine explores Dr. King’s legacy through artistic depictions of him.

Test your knowledge with this Martin Luther King Jr. quiz.

Discover how Dr. King’s message of non-violence lives on through The King Center in Atlanta.


Martin Luther King Jr. Lesson plans

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