(from The Wall Street Journal, WSJ.com, AP) – Tourists and Washingtonians [got] their first up-close look at the memorial to Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. [on Monday, Aug. 22].

The site was set to open without fanfare to kick off a week of celebrations ahead of Sunday’s official dedication.

The memorial sits on the National Mall between memorials honoring Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson. It includes a 30-foot-tall sculpture of King and a 450-foot-long granite wall inscribed with 14 quotations from his speeches.

The sheer size of the sculpture of King sets it apart from nearby statues of Jefferson and Lincoln, which are both about 20 feet tall, though inside larger monuments.

A panel of scholars chose the engraved quotations from speeches by King in Atlanta, New York, Washington, Los Angeles and Montgomery, Ala., as well as from King’s books and his letter from a Birmingham, Ala., jail. …

The site will be surrounded with cherry trees that will blossom in pink and white in the spring.

Sunday’s dedication ceremony will mark the 48th anniversary of the March on Washington and King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.  President Barack Obama is scheduled to speak at the dedication.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. giving his "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963 in Washington, D.C.

The Chinese sculptor, Lei Yixin, said he wanted the memorial to be a visual representation of the ideals King spoke of in his “I Have a Dream” speech.

“His dream is very universal. It’s a dream of equality,” Mr. Lei said through his son, who translated from Mandarin. “He went to jail…and he sacrificed his life for his dream. And now his dream comes true.”

The sculpture depicts King with a stern expression, wearing a jacket and tie, his arms folded and clutching papers in his left hand. Mr. Lei said through his son that “you can see the hope” in King’s face, but that his serious demeanor also indicates that “he’s thinking.”

The statue depicts King emerging from a stone. The concept for the memorial was taken from a line in the “I Have a Dream” speech, which is carved into the stone: “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” Visitors to the memorial pass through a sculpture of the mountain of despair and come upon the stone of hope.

Associated Press.  Copyright 2011 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted here for educational purposes only. Visit the website at wsj.com.


1.  What is significant about the date chosen for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s memorial dedication?

2.  How does the size of Dr. King’s statue compare with those of Presidents Jefferson and Lincoln?

3.  Describe the concept for Dr. King’s memorial.

4.  Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin created the sculpture of Dr. King and carried out almost all of the work in his studio in Changsha in Hunan province, China.  More than 150 granite blocks, weighing some 1,600 tons, were then shipped from Xiamen to the port of Baltimore, and reassembled by a team of 100 workmen, including ten Chinese stone masons brought to the U.S. specifically for the project.
a)  What do you think about Mr. Lei’s comments about his sculpture and Dr. King? (from para. 9-10)
b)  Do you think an American sculptor (possibly an African-American sculptor) should have been commissioned to create the sculpture here in the U.S.?  Explain your answer.

5.  Why do you think it is important for us to memorialize the great men in our history?

CHALLENGE:  Part of the memorial is a 450-foot-long granite wall inscribed with 14 quotations from Dr. King’s sermons and speeches, arranged chronologically according to his life.  Find and list the quotes.  Include the source you used to find the list.

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  • On September 28, 1996 the U.S. House of Representatives passed Joint Resolution 70 authorizing Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. to establish a memorial in Washington, DC to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • The Senate followed by passing Joint Resolution 426 on October 3, 1996, and on July 16, 1998, President Clinton signed a Joint Congressional Resolution authorizing the building of a memorial.
  • The Memorial is conceived as an engaging landscape experience to convey four fundamental and recurring themes throughout Dr. King’s life – democracy, justice, hope, and love.
  • Natural elements such as the crescent-shaped-stone wall inscribed with excerpts of his sermons, and public addresses will serve as the living testaments of his vision of America.
  • The centerpiece of the Memorial, the “Stone of Hope,” features a 30-foot likeness of Dr. King.

(from mlkmemorial.org/site/c.hkIUL9MVJxE/b.1191509/k.48EE/Quick_Facts_About_the_Memorial.htm)


Visit the website that includes information regarding the dedication ceremony for the memorial and events leading up to it this week at dedicatethedream.org.

Read/view photos of the design of the memorial at mlkmemorial.org.

Watch a virtual tour of MLK’s memorial below:

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