Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Stone of Hope

This is the new Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. monument, which was dedicated on the National Mall this weekend to mark the anniversary of the "I Have a Dream" speech given on August 28th, 1963.

The inscription on one side reads "Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope." Fittingly, the figure of King is, to put it in appropriate Biblical terms, "hewn out of the mountain." The visitor approaches the memorial from behind, passing figuratively through the mountain with him, before rounding the monument to view it from the front.

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the monument--whether the image of King was exaggeratingly racialized, the enormous licensing fees paid to the King family for use of King's image and quotations, the later egregious misquoting of speeches used in the memorial, choosing a Chinese sculptor whose other famous works include a monument to Moa Zedong, and the list really goes on, all the way down to whether the design itself was an appropriate representation for the tribute. But, really, there will always be controversy. If the Washington Monument or the Lincoln Memorial were being built today, there would be an outcry. No doubt in time, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial will become as much a part of the recognizable landscape of the National Mall as the Reflecting Pool, where the crowds gathered that day to hear that immortal speech.

One of my favorite tributes to Dr. King is Patty Griffin's song "Up to the Mountain," which was inspired by the last speech Dr. King gave. It's full of emotion and soulful gospel lyricism that is reminiscent of Dr. King's speeches.


  1. Great sculpture and it's about time that this is completed!

  2. I guess I need to reserve judgment until I see it for myself. My first impression is negative, but then again, my first impression of the glass pyramid at the Louvre was negative and now I love it.