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Maya miffed at muffed MLK memorial quote

Aug. 31, 2011 at 5:38 PM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, Aug. 31 (UPI) -- Poet Maya Angelou said the paraphrased quotation inscribed on the memorial to Martin Luther King in Washington makes the civil rights leader sound arrogant.

The dropping of the word "if" in the quotation was a huge error, Angelou told The Washington Post, because it erases King's natural humility, which she called one of his greatest strengths.

"The quote makes Dr. Martin Luther King look like an arrogant twit," Angelou said. "He was anything but that."

The quotation on the statue reads "I was a drum major for justice, peace, and righteousness." Angelou said that made it sound like he was aggrandizing himself when the actual 1968 words were: "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."

ABC News said the problem originated with a late design change sought by the planners, which swapped the drum major quote on one side with a shorter quote on the other. The dimensions of the stone memorial were such that the drum major remark had to be paraphrased to make it fit.

Angelou's response to the situation? "Too bad," she said, adding that the words needed to be corrected regardless.

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