Controversial Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Inscription To Be Removed

Federal officials announced Tuesday that the controversial “drum major” inscription on the side of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington will be removed.

According to CNN, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said that the decision was made when a “range of stakeholders” agreed on the decision.

Initial plans were for the quote to be corrected. However, Lei Yixin (the original sculptor) said that removal was the best way to ensure the structural integrity of the memorial.

The memorial features a 30-foot statue of King, with his arms folded across his chest, emerging out of a “Stone of Hope.”

The controversial inscription is a quote that is inscribed on one side of the stone. The abbreviated and paraphrased version of the line sparked controversy in 2011 when poet and author Maya Angelou said that it made Martin Luther King Jr. appear to be arrogant.

The controversial inscription reads:

“I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.”

King’s original words were from a 1968 sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. He originally said:

“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.”

Angelou said that leaving out the “if” changes the meaning of the whole quote.

The plan will be submitted to the Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission in January for their review.

Bernice A. King, King’s youngest daughter and CEO of the King Center in Atlanta, said this in the news release:

“We are grateful that Secretary Salazar’s office and the National Park Service has taken such care to maintain the spirit and appearance of such an important monument to our country’s history and my father’s memory.”

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial will remain open to visitors throughout the work, but parts of the memorial will be covered at times.

The project will begin after the annual King birthday observance.