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December 11, 2012

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial to lose its controversial "Drum Major" quote

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is proposing a new fix to the disputed "Drum Major" quote on the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial: full removal of the quote.

The memorial sparked controversy by only partially quoting the civil rights leader, leading poet Maya Angelou to say that it made King sound like an "arrogant twit."

Salazar says the quote would be removed by "carving striations over the lettering to match the existing scratch marks on the sculpture that represent the tearing of the 'Stone of Hope' from the 'Mountain of Despair.' "

He said the plan to remove the quote, rather than fully install it, was recommended by the original sculptor, Master Lei Yixin, as the best way to ensure the structural integrity of the memorial.

"After close consultation with all parties, Secretary Salazar, the National Park Service, the King family and the Memorial Foundation, and Master Lei Yixin all concur that this is the best path forward," the Interior Department said.

The inscription on the memorial: "I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness," is a paraphrase of a sermon King delivered in 1968, two months before his assassination. His full remarks were: "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. And all of the other shallow things will not matter."

The memorial will remain open to visitors, but due to scaffolding and partial coverage of the sculpture, visitors should expect limited visibility. To accomodate crowds during King's birthday and the 2013 Presidential Inauguration, work will begin February - March and is estimated to be completed by spring 2013.

Salazar said he was "proud that all parties have come together on a resolution that will help ensure the structural integrity of this timeless and powerful monument to Dr. King’s life and legacy."

King's sister, Christine King Farris said that "while our family would have of course preferred to have the entire 'Drum Major' quote used, we fully endorse and support the Secretary's proposal."


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