Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial has been a major destination since it opened in 2011.

©Angela N.

On MLK Day, there’s always a morning ceremony before people go out for a day of service. This year, Martin Luther King III gave a powerful speech, with a rapt audience despite the snow.

©Victoria Pickering
Martin Luther King III and his family at the wreath laying on 1/15/24. ©Victoria Pickering

The memorial is a destination for marches and ceremonies and remembrance:

©Miki Jourdan
©Victoria Pickering

There’s a long wall with fourteen of his most inspirational quotes:

Opening day of the memorial, 8/22/2011.
©Victoria Pickering
©Victoria Pickering

Behind the statue, there’s the “Mountain of Despair” that you pass through before arriving at the “Stone of Hope” with the bas relief of Dr. King:

©Angela N.

Marchers frequently stop to symbolically pass through the walls of this mountain:

©Victoria Pickering

The location of it is perfect – with a view of the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, and the Tidal Basin.

©Angela N.

View from the Jefferson Memorial:

©Victoria Pickering

In the springtime, the memorial is surrounded by cherry blossoms:

©Angela N.

There was one issue after it was opened – a quote on the side of the Stone of Hope had been paraphrased and abridged, saying “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness,” which was felt to sound self-aggrandizing when the actual longer quote was not. There was a lot of debate about how to fix it. Finally, the decision was made to carve out the quote and add striations in the stone that matched other parts of the structure – the change took almost a year but the results look perfect.

It’s an incredibly moving memorial, whether viewed up close or from far away.

©Angela N.
View from the top of the Washington Monument ©Angela N.

Master carver Nick Benson carved all of the quotations at the memorial. Benson and his father and his grandfather are the artists who carved most of the words on D.C. memorials – read more in our article about him.

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