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Inscription On Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial To Be Removed

Poet Maya Angelou, amongst others, took issue with the paraphrasing used on the memorial to Martin Luther King Jr.
Markette Smith
Poet Maya Angelou, amongst others, took issue with the paraphrasing used on the memorial to Martin Luther King Jr.

The controversial paraphrased quote on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C., will be removed.

A plan to remove the "Drum Major" inscription was approved Tuesday by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Here's more from the statement announcing the move:

"Following consultation with a range of stakeholders, the updated plan calls for removing the quote 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.' The plan to remove, instead of replace, the quote was recommended by the original sculptor, Master Lei Yixin, as the safest way to ensure the structural integrity of the memorial was not compromised. 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."

As it now stands, the paraphrased quotation reads: "I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness." But critics, including the poet Maya Angelou, said that the quotation made King sound arrogant.

The full quotation reads:

"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. And all of the other shallow things will not matter."

King uttered those words in a 1968 sermon two months before he was assassinated.

"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," said Christine King Farris, King's sister, said in the statement.

The memorial will remain open during the corrective work, the statement said, but visitors should expect limited visibility during some of the process. Work will begin next February and is expected to be completed by spring.

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