[VIDEO - MLK Memorial opens for visitors. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial,
which sits on the National Mall near the tidal basin, opened to the public on Friday.
About 350 people filled the space around the monument before before noon]



One of the greatest black men in the history of African American civil rights leads will be the first non president memorial to be in the monument district of Washington DC.

This grand structure will feature stone statues of Dr King Jr and various walls of hope and writings inspired by his speeches.

By watching the virtual tour which is posted below you can see the monument in the form of a park located with in a sights view of some of the other DC presidential monuments.

This MLK monument is said to be costing an amazing 120 million dollars. But even in a recession it is well worth the bill.



The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial is located in West Potomac Park in Washington, D.C., southwest of the National Mall.

The Memorial is located at the northwest corner of the Tidal Basin near the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, on a sightline linking the Lincoln Memorial to the northwest and the Jefferson Memorial to the southeast.

The official address of the monument, 1964 Independence Avenue, S.W., commemorates of the year that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 became law.

Covering four acres, the memorial opened to the public on August 22, 2011, after more than two decades of planning, fund-raising and construction.

A ceremony dedicating the Memorial was scheduled for Sunday, August 28, 2011, the 48th anniversary of the "I Have a Dream" speech that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963 but has been postponed indefinitely due to Hurricane Irene.

Although this is not the first memorial to an African-American in Washington, D.C., Dr. King is the first African-American honored with a memorial on or near the National Mall and only the fourth non-President to be memorialized in such a way. The King Memorial is administered by the National Park Service (NPS).

Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was an American clergyman, activist, and prominent leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement.

He is best known for being an iconic figure in the advancement of civil rights in the United States and around the world, using nonviolent methods following the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. King is often presented as a heroic leader in the history of modern American liberalism.

[PHOTO - Delivering the "I Have a Dream" speech at the 1963 Washington D.C. Civil Rights March.]

A Baptist minister, King became a civil rights activist early in his career.[8] He led the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott and helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957, serving as its first president.

King's efforts led to the 1963 March on Washington, where King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech. There, he expanded American values to include the vision of a color blind society, and established his reputation as one of the greatest orators in American history.

In 1964, King became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to end racial segregation and racial discrimination through civil disobedience and other nonviolent means.[9] By the time of his death in 1968, he had refocused his efforts on ending poverty and stopping the Vietnam War.

King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee. His assassination led to a nationwide wave of race riots in Washington D.C., Chicago, Baltimore, Louisville, Kentucky, Kansas City, and dozens of other cities.

He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 and Congressional Gold Medal in 2004; Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was established as a U.S. federal holiday in 1986, and was first observed in all states in 2000.

Project history

[PHOTO - Plaque on the location of the memorial in Washington D.C. from November 2008]

The memorial is a result of an early effort of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated to erect a monument to King. King was a member of the fraternity, initiated into the organization via Sigma Chapter on June 22, 1952, while he was attending Boston University.

King remained involved with the fraternity after the completion of his studies, including delivering the keynote speech at the fraternity's 50th anniversary banquet in 1956.

In 1968, after King's assassination, Alpha Phi Alpha proposed erecting a permanent memorial to King in Washington, D.C. The fraternity's efforts gained momentum in 1986, after King's birthday was designated a national holiday.

In 1996, the United States Congress authorized the Secretary of the Interior to permit Alpha Phi Alpha to establish a memorial on Department of Interior lands in the District of Columbia, giving the fraternity until November 2003 to raise $100 million and break ground.

In 1998, Congress authorized the fraternity to establish a foundation—the Washington, D.C. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation—to manage the memorial's fundraising and design, and approved the building of the memorial on the National Mall.

In 1999, the United States Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) and the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) approved the site location for the memorial.


The memorial's design, by ROMA Design Group, a San Francisco-based architecture firm, was selected out of 900 candidates from 52 countries.

On December 4, 2000, a marble and bronze plaque was laid by Alpha Phi Alpha to dedicate the site where the memorial will be built. Soon thereafter, a full-time fundraising team began the fundraising and promotional campaign for the memorial.

A ceremonial groundbreaking for the memorial was held on November 13, 2006, in West Potomac Park.

In August 2008, the foundation's leaders estimated the memorial would take 20 months to complete with a total cost of $120 million USD.

As of December 2008, the foundation had raised approximately $108 million, including substantial contributions from such donors as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Walt Disney Company Foundation, the National Association of Realtors, and filmmaker George Lucas. The figure also includes $10 million in matching funds provided by the United States Congress.

In October 2009, the memorial's final project was approved by federal agencies and a building permit was issued.

Construction began in December 2009  and was expected to take 20 months to complete.

The foundation conducted a press tour on December 1, 2010, as the "Stone of Hope" was nearing completion. At that time only $108 million of the $120 million project cost had been raised but saved $8 million by having the memorial made in China.

Location and structure

The street address for the memorial is 1964 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC, with "1964" chosen as a direct reference to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, a milestone in the Civil Rights movement in which King played an important role.

The memorial is located on a 4-acre (16,000 m2) site in West Potomac Park that borders the Tidal Basin, southwest of the National Mall. The memorial is near the FDR Memorial and is intended to create a visual "line of leadership" from the Lincoln Memorial, where King gave his "I Have a Dream" speech at the March on Washington, to the Jefferson Memorial.

"Out of a mountain of despair, A stone of hope."
From "I have a dream" speech, August 28, 1963, Washington, D.C.

A 30-foot high statue of King named the “Stone of Hope” stands past two other pieces of granite that symbolize the "mountain of despair."

Visitors literally "pass through" the Mountain of Despair on the way to the Stone of Hope, symbolically "moving through the struggle as Dr. King did during his life."

The memorial includes 24 niches (semicircular nave-like shapes) along the upper walkway to commemorate the contribution of the many individuals that gave their lives in different ways to the civil rights movement – from Medgar Evers to the four children murdered in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham. A number of the niches are left open and incomplete, allowing additional niches to be dedicated as new individuals are honored.

The statue of King is intended to give the impression that he is looking over the Tidal Basin at the Jefferson Memorial, and that the cherry trees that "adorn the site" will bloom every year during the anniversary of King's death.

This memorial is not be the first one in the nation's capital to honor an African-American, because one already exists for Mary McLeod Bethune, founder of the National Council of Negro Women, who also served as an unofficial advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

A 17-foot-tall bronze statue of her is located in Lincoln Park, East Capitol St. and 12th St., NE. However, this will be the first memorial to an African-American on or near the National Mall.

The memorial is the fourth that commemorates an individual who never served as President of the United States that is located on or near the National Mall.

The others include the George Mason Memorial, honoring George Mason, author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights (the basis for the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights, near the Thomas Jefferson Memorial; the John Ericsson Memorial, erected to honor John Ericsson, the Swedish-born engineer and inventor who designed the USS Monitor during the Civil War; and the John Paul Jones Memorial, erected in 1912 near the Tidal Basin in memory of John Paul Jones, the Scottish-born American naval hero who served during the American Revolution

Sculptor and stone choice

PHOTO - Sculptor Lei Yixin's signature]

It was announced in January 2007 that Lei Yixin, an artist from the People's Republic of China, would sculpt the centerpiece of the memorial, including the statue of King and the "Stone of Hope".

The commission was criticized by human rights activist Harry Wu on the grounds that Lei had sculpted Mao Zedong. It also stirred accusations that it was based on financial considerations, because the Chinese government would make a $25 million donation to help meet the projected shortfall in donations.

The president of the memorial's foundation, Harry E. Johnson, who first met Lei in a sculpting workshop in Saint Paul, Minnesota, stated that the final selection was done by a mostly African American design team and was based solely on artistic ability.

[PHOTO - Sculptor Master Lei Yixin created a scale model of the "Stone of Hope," meant to be the centerpiece of a memorial of Martin Luther King, Jr. on the National Mall.]

Gilbert Young, an African American artist known for a work of art entitled He Ain't Heavy, led a protest against the decision to hire Lei by launching the website King Is Ours, which demanded that an African American artist be used for the monument.

Human-rights activist and arts advocate Ann Lau and American stone-carver Clint Button joined Young and national talk-show host Joe Madison in advancing the protest when the use of Chinese granite was discovered.

Lau decried the human rights record of the Chinese government and asserted that the granite would be mined by workers forced to toil in unsafe and unfair conditions. Button argued that the $10 million in federal money that has been authorized for the King project required it to be subject to an open bidding process.

The memorial's design team visited China in October 2006 to inspect potential granite to be used. The project's foundation has argued that the quality of the Chinese granite exceeds that which can be found in the United States.

Young's King Is Ours petition demanded that an African American artist and American granite be used for the national monument, arguing the importance of such selections as a part of the memorial's legacy.

The petition received support from American granite workers and from the California State Conference of the NAACP.

In May 2008, the CFA, one of the agencies which had to approve all elements of the memorial, raised concerns about "the colossal scale and Social Realist style of the proposed sculpture," noting that it "recalls a genre of political sculpture that has recently been pulled down in other countries."

The commission did, however, approve the final design in September 2008.

In September 2010, the foundation gave written promises that it would use local stonemasons to assemble the memorial.

However, when construction began in October, it appeared that only Chinese laborers would be used.

The Washington area local of the Bricklayers and Allied Craftsworkers union investigated and determined that the workers were not being paid on a regular basis, with all of their pay being withheld until they return to China.

Choice of sculptor for Martin Luther King Jr. monument draws flak Posted 8/25/2007 9:41 AM | USA TODAY NEWS REPORT

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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