With dozens of monuments scattered across the District, no black American has been honored with a monument the way Lincoln, Washington or Roosevelt have. But Martin Luther King Jr. will soon be the first when a memorial in his name is constructed to commemorate his efforts in the civil rights movement.
In 1998, President Clinton signed a Congressional measure granting federal land for a memorial to commemorate the civil rights leader. With the formation of the MLK Memorial Foundation, the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity are solely responsible for the fundraising efforts, according to the foundation’s Web site.
Estimated at $100 million, the sum must be raised by November 2003, when groundbreaking at the construction site will take place. Among other efforts, the fraternity has sold bricks to sponsors, which will be placed at the monument site.
The design of the memorial was selected from a pool of bids from 900 architectural firms in September 2000. Titled “The Man, The Message, The Movement,” the memorial will feature waterways and shaded walkways. The winning design also includes 24 niches that will provide space to honor other civil rights leaders such as Rosa Parks and Medgar Evers.
The monument will sit on the triangular piece of land adjacent to the Tidal Basin between the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials. The National Capital Planning Commission approved the site in December 1999, but the design has not been approved in its entirety, so the project completion date is unknown, project officials said.
“Until we know exactly what we are building, we will not know exactly when the MLK Memorial will open to the public,” said a spokesperson from the MLK National Memorial Project Foundation.
Project member John Carter described the purpose of the project when he testified before a Senate subcommittee on the site’s approval in March 1998.
“We now have an opportunity to break the trend of memorials to war and erect a monument which delivers a message of lifelong peace in our land,” he said. “A memorial which embodies not just the image of Dr. King, but the image of America, which is often called the melting pot of the world.”