- The African American fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha first began discussing the idea for a memorial in the 1980s. Martin Luther King Jr. joined the fraternity in 1952 when he was studying theology at Boston University.
- In 1996, the House and Senate approved the idea and in 1998, President Bill Clinton authorized the project. More than 900 designs were submitted by architects, designers, and even students.
- In 2006, Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin was commissioned to work on the project.
- The century-old family architecture firm McKissack & McKissack was chosen to oversee the project. Five generations of McKissacks had worked in construction, going back to Moses McKissack, who came from West Africa as a slave in 1790 and learned the trade from his master William McKissack. Moses taught his sons the trade and their children Calvin and Moses III started the company in 1905.
- The memorial is based on a line from King’s I Have a Dream speech, “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope. The stone of hope is a 30 foot tall sculpture of King carved from pink granite. The sculpture accurately depicts the man and shows him dressed in a suit, arms folded, looking to the horizon.
- The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is the first memorial for an African American on the National Mall, and the fourth memorial of someone who was not a U.S. president.
- Fraternity: a group of men organized (usually beginning in college) to achieve social or other goals
- Theology: the study of religion
Questions and Answers
Question: What else is included at the memorial?
Answer: There is a stone depicting the mountain of struggle and an inscription wall with fourteen quotes from Martin Luther King Jr., including:
- “We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” (March 31, 1968, National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.)
- “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” (1963, Strength to Love)
- “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.” (December 10, 1964, Oslo, Norway)
- “Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.”