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Despite Opening, Controversy Continues to Plague MLK Jr. Memorial


What fools we were to believe that, after years of contentious debate, delay after delay and turmoil of varying degree, now that the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington DC is finally finished and sitting in its new, permanent home, everything would be fine. Instead, the seemingly always troubled monument has continued to suffer through controversy. First, and certainly the minor issue at hand, the memorial was intended to be given a full dedication on August 28th, which was cancelled due to the closing in of Hurricane Irene. However, now that the storm has passed, it’s not entirely clear when the dedication will happen. “The official Dedication ceremony will be moved to a date yet determined in September or October,” the MLK Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation writes in a press release. “We will announce those details when we have them.” Second, and certainly the most contentious, is the issue over the inscription carved at the base of the memorial, a paraphrased version of King’s “drum major” sermon, reading “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.” Critics, like the poet Maya Angelou, write that the stripped down line makes him sound like “an arrogant twit” and ignores the fact that the original “drum major” speech wasn’t boastful in the humblest sense. The Washington Post has a great recap on all the controversy surrounding said inscription, including the executive architect’s response to all of the criticism, saying there are no plans to re-do anything about the memorial and it will stay as-is.

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