The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is located in West Potomac Park at 1964 Independence Avenue, S.W., referencing the year the Civil Rights Act Of 1964 became law. The memorial’s official dedication date is August 28, 2011, the 48th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, though the ceremony was postponed until October 16 due to Hurricane Irene.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Baptist minister and social activist who became a notable figure during the U.S. civil rights movement from the mid-1950s until he was assassinated in 1968. He played a pivotal role in ending the legal segregation of African American citizens in the U.S., influencing the creation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, among other honors.
This memorial is the first African American honored with a memorial on the National Mall and the fourth non-president to be remembered in such a way. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s message is universal: a non-violent philosophy striving for freedom, justice, and equality.
Each part of the memorial is significant. The many entrances and approaches to it symbolize the openness of democracy. From the looming Mountain of Despair, a Stone of Hope surges forward as the focal point for the memorial. This references a line in King’s speech, “With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.” There, the striking likeness of Dr. King captured him in a moment of reflective thought, determined and resolute. The detachment of the Stone of Hope from the Mountain of Despair symbolizes victory borne from disappointment. A wall of quotes spanning Dr. King’s long civil rights career represents Dr. King’s ideals of peace, democracy, justice, and love. As much as the quotes acknowledge the history of the civil rights struggle in America, they can continue to serve as inspiration to others fighting for civil rights around the globe.
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