Washington residents will witness an historical groundbreaking in November, when officials plan to dedicate a new memorial on the National Mall to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Nobel laureate and slain civil rights leader will be the first black and non-president person to be honored in such a way.
Titled “The Man, the Movement, the Message,” the memorial will be built on a 4-acre triangular piece of land between the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials, and adjacent to the Roosevelt memorial near where King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
The memorial will consist of a statue of King and two long walls displaying the reverend’s most famous quotations and commemorating other civil rights heroes.
In 1998 Congress authorized the historically black Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity to raise money and sponsor a design competition for the memorial, recalling King’s devotion to the civil rights movement. King was a member of the fraternity while attending Morehouse College.
The memorial foundation must raise about $70 million of its $100 million goal and break ground for the memorial by Nov. 12. It has already raised about $25.5 million and should not have a problem raising the rest, said LeRoy Lowery III, executive director of the MLK Memorial Project Foundation.
“We’re going to give it a good shot,” Lowery said, noting the foundation could request an extension from Congress if necessary. “In order to get the building permit, we need to have 110 percent of the building costs plus the approval of the (National Capital Planning Commission and the Commission of Fine Arts).”
The foundation will also run a series of three to five television advertisements beginning in March, featuring a yet-to-be-disclosed Hollywood star, Lowery said.
GW’s chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha has been active in fundraising for the cause. Fraternity president Talib Hudson said proceeds from its sixth annual charity step show on Feb. 8 will go to the memorial fund.
Quotations from King’s sermons and speeches, arranged chronologically, will be inscribed on a wall about 12 feet high and 350 feet long.
Another wall, along the northern border of the memorial, will contain space to commemorate other civil rights leaders, including Rosa Parks and activist/writer Medgar Evers.
The landscape will include waterfalls, streams and wellsprings, as well as smooth stones and large trees, symbolic of the metaphors King commonly used in his speeches.
A statue representation of King, “The Stone of Hope,” will face the Jefferson Memorial, recalling King’s words that a “stone of hope” will be carved out of a “mountain of despair.”
On the side of the statue his famous words will be printed, “When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.”
After the two commissions approved the location, the foundation formed a panel of architects and designers to select a winning sketch for the memorial. The design competition attracted 1,600 registrants from 52 countries.
San Francisco-based ROMA Design Group designed the winning entry. The firm is composed of a panel of architects, landscape architects and planners.