City Desk

Norton Wants MLK Memorial Do-Over

One of D.C.'s most beloved politicians has become one of an increasing number of Martin Luther King Jr. memorial faultfinders. On Friday, D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton tweeted that she wants to see the memorial changed. "Heed outcry on redo of King's words on Memorial. Distorts man, not just words," Norton typed. The tweet echoed a criticism, most notably delivered by literary matriarch Maya Angelou, that one of the memorial's inscriptions paraphrases a quote in a way that makes King "look like an arrogant twit."

But a statement released on Wednesday by Ed Jackson, the memorial's executive architect, insists there won't be any do-overs: "The inscription on the Stone of Hope comes directly from Dr. King’s words. Our goal is to help visitors learn about Dr. King’s central beliefs and commitments. We have no plans to alter the Memorial."

The quote in question appears on the north side of the sculpture and reads “I was a drum major for justice, peace, and righteousness,” instead of Kings more humbly wrought “Yes, 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.”

Jackson may seem confident at this point, but while people are unlikely to get behind major changes to the memorial, pressure for an inscription-do-over could easily mount. Angelou and Norton certainly have pull within a black community enormously invested in King's legacy—and a generation familiar with how to fight for change.

Photo by Lydia DePillis

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  • Lovelace

    Ellie, go get that DC unemployment rate down. That's what you can do in honor of Dr. King!

  • Samantha

    Jackson seems to think that he is the final word . Check out his 'credentials" as "executive architect ". The accuracy of his title may tell us all if he does not pass muster . By the way, where is Dr. King's wedding ring ? Real Alpha Men Embrece SCHOLARSHIP and MANLY DEEDS one of wich is TRUTH and RIGHTEOUSNESS . Is ths goy really Alpha Phi Alpha Stock ?

  • Southeast Ken

    The Devil is a lie. Who said, nappy headed Eleanor Holmes Norton is beloved by D.C. residents? Most people I know can stand this hag. I don't know why D.C. voters continue to vote this woman back into office every two years. I stop voting for Eleanor years ago.

    Ward 7 D.C. Voter

  • Southeast Ken

    Correction: can't stand

  • Southeast Ken

    I visited the MLK Memorial last week and I thought it looked nice. I took plenty pictures on the memorial.

  • White Dude

    Eleanor Holmes Norton needs to check herself into a retirement home as soon as possible. She is old and in the way. I really could care less what she thinks about the MLK statue or anything else. We need someone to represent us in Congress who isn't stuck in the 70's.

  • jonathan wecker

    Our goverment is so broke.....but holy cow we spend 120 million dollars on a stupid rock.....and still you people complain....good example of hoe obama is trying his hardest to destroy this country....U VOTED FOR THE IDIOT!

  • evandery

    Jonathan - A vast majority of the funding for MLK's memorial came from private donations and had nothing to do with Obama ($10 million of the $120 million was appropriated under an entirely Republican House, Senate, and president in 2005). In the future, please educate yourself on a subject before offering wrong opinions. God bless.

  • jonathan wecker

    I just think its wierd that we never heard of this mlk rock till we have a half black president....Then we just had to have it..

  • let it be known

    All this crying is reminding me that race is an issue that needs to be addressed.

  • Jes’ sayin’

    Again Jonathan, you idiot, 90% of this was private funds, and the rest came from your hero George W. Bush and his GOP-controlled House and Senate back in 2005. What part of that is beyond your feeble understanding, you racist twit?

  • Ron

    Newsflash: Eleanor Holmes Norton wants a lot of things. Maybe if she focused on the things that would actually aid her constituents instead of serving herself, then she might accomplish something more than nothing.

  • Jason

    Its not just the poor choice of words but also the shaming and arrogant look in his face and crossed arms, the diminutive size compared to other memorials and frankly it feels like a plastic Vegas replication. Sad sad sad. Also, did you know the King family actually charged for the use of his image? DO OVER!

  • Jason

    Also- agreed about Holmes being way out of touch of her well changed and increasingly changing city. Appalled with the racially charged BS it came with tho.

    Holmes does need to understand she now represents a diverse city. Appealing to black focused issues is leaving more than half her constituents baffled at her decisions and in fact is hurting all DC residents. Jobs, education, business, and infrastructure will do more to lift the disadvantage into the middle class than any spacial programs or constant complaining. Would love for her to stay but pledge to refocus on things that actually make a difference.

  • evandery

    @Jonathan - I get that we're dealing with a degree of irrational racism in your rants, but your claim is baseless. You claim we hadn't heard of this MLK memorial until we had a half-black president, yet you can research (again, educate yourself) and find that the opening was set for late 2011 back when Bush was president during the planning phases. Just because you didn't know about the planning and construction phases doesn't mean it was suddenly prioritized. You're really off-base and should apologize - take personal responsibility for your mistakes on this issue, both not knowing it's overwhelmingly privately funded and has been under development for many years.

  • evandery

    @Jason - what do you mean diminutive size compared to other memorials? The MLK statue is 11 feet taller than Lincoln and Jefferson.

  • Falls Church

    "The inscription on the Stone of Hope comes directly from Dr. King’s words."

    This dude clearly needs to be put in charge of the Richard M. Nixon Memorial, where he can inscribe this quote that comes directly from Nixon's words: "I am a crook."