MLK Memorial in DC Under Renovation to Scratch Out Controversial Quote

The memorial to Martin Luther King Jr. in Washington D.C. includes the following quote on its side: “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.”

However, many people weren’t pleased with how the longer quote was paraphrased. ABC News reports:

Originally, King was quoted as saying something much less succinct: “If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice, say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.”


The shortened phrase did not go unnoticed, drawing heavy criticism from poet, Maya Angelou, who was quoted in the Washington Post as saying that the statue made King “look like an arrogant twit.”


“[Paraphrasing] makes him seem less than the humanitarian he was. . . . It makes him seem an egotist,” Angelou told the Washington Post.


In a press release, Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar addressed the mistake and noted that instead of altering the quote further, “updated plans call for removing the quote by carving striations over the lettering to match the existing scratch marks on the sculpture.” The scratches are meant to represent the tearing of the “Stone of Hope” from the “Mountain of Despair.”

Renovations start next week and the memorial will be open while they’re being done. The quote will be scratched out completely. ABC only covers Angelou’s complaint, but others responded negatively to the memorial as well. Do you think the original quote made King seem arrogant? Do you think the quote misrepresented him? Let us know what you think.