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Sculptor Removes 'Drum Major' Inscription On MLK Memorial

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The existing inscription will be replaced with grooves matching those already on the memorial.
Markette Smith
The existing inscription will be replaced with grooves matching those already on the memorial.

The controversial "drum major" inscription has been removed from the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial.

Lei Yixin, the master sculptor behind the memorial, says the controversy surrounding the paraphrased quotation did not surprise him, because all art provokes controversial discussion.

Lei will replace the "drum major" inscription with carved grooves matching other grooves already present on the sculpture. Critics said the inscription made King sound arrogant: "I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness."

The exact words, taken from a sermon Dr. King delivered in 1968 are: "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."

Lei says he still feels honored to be part of the project.

"Right now, the statue really looks good — he thinks Americans will not regret picking him as the sculptor of record," says Lei, speaking through his son.

The work, which the Park service says will be complete before the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, is costing somewhere between $700,000 to $800,000.

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