10 Facts About the Martin Luther King National Memorial
Learn how the memorial got started, who built it and how much it cost.
The Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial was dedicated on Oct. 16, 2011. President Barack Obama delivered the memorial address. Situated on the National Mall, the memorial serves as a site to honor King for his role in the civil rights movement and his belief in nonviolence and freedom for all. It is also a place where people, regardless of ethnic background, gender, religion and sexual orientation, can come together and pay tribute to King. The memorial, which consists of a 30-foot tall granite sculpture of King, cost $120 million to build. The process to create the memorial spanned 15 years. Learn more about the memorial with the 10 facts below.
The memorial got its start when U.S. Congress passed a joint resolution in 1996 allowing Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. to honor King with a national monument.
The memorial was originally scheduled to be dedicated on Aug. 28, 2011—the 48th anniversary of the March on Washington. Hurricane Irene, however, postponed the event to October.
Master Lei Yixin is the sculptor who created the memorial. Some African Americans objected to him being chosen to build the 30-foot structure because he’s Chinese rather than black. However, other people of color said that King was influenced by global figures such as Gandhi and that King was concerned about the rights of people all over the world, making him not just a black figurehead but a symbol of progress to everyone.
The memorial is the first in the nation’s capital built in honor of a person of color.
Before the memorial opened, the media pointed out that blacks were far more interested in visiting the site than whites were. A USA Today/Gallup poll released in August 2011 found that while 68 percent of blacks said they were very interested in visiting the monument, only 22 percent of whites said the same.
When it opened, the memorial was the country’s 395th national park.
The park is open to the public 24 hours a day.
The memorial sits next to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and between the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials. King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln memorial.
The section of the memorial on the granite wall facing the Tidal Basin features 17 quotes from King.
A number of celebrities, including Carlos Santana and George Lucas, donated money to cover the memorial’s cost.
[ALSO READ: Why Conservatives Would’ve Attacked King]