Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Is 10 Years Old


The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have turned 92 last Friday, Jan. 15.

D.C.’s parade, peace walk and other events in his honor took place virtually on Sunday. And though today, Jan. 18, is the official federal holiday named for the slain civil rights leader, due to inauguration-related security measures, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is closed to the public through Thursday.

The process of creating the memorial began in 1996, when Congress gave authorization to Alpha Phi Alpha, King’s fraternity. More than 900 entries to an international design competition were received.

The winning design, by San Francisco-based ROMA Design Group, was inspired by a line from the powerful and moving “I Have a Dream” speech, which King delivered at the Lincoln Memorial during the 1963 March on Washington: “With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.” Carved from pink granite by Chinese artist Lei Yixin (b. 1954), a 30-foot-tall image of King emerges from the Stone of Hope. Behind it stands the cleaved Mountain of Despair.

The official ceremony to dedicate the memorial, located in West Potomac Park near the Tidal Basin, was held on Oct. 16, 2011. (It was delayed from that August by Hurricane Irene.) Events to mark its first decade are planned for Oct. 15 to 17.

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