Controversial quote to be removed from MLK monument

July 29, 2013 at 3:02 PM
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WASHINGTON, July 29 (UPI) -- A controversially paraphrased quote on the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C., is being removed rather than replaced, officials said.

The memorial, which opened in August 2011, features the quote "I was a drum major for justice, peace, and righteousness," which is a paraphrased version of a line King delivered during a sermon at an Atlanta church.

What King actually said was, "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 paraphrased version caused a stir, as some thought it made King sound egotistical.

"He had no arrogance at all," poet Maya Angelou told the Washington Post in 2011. "He had a humility that comes from deep inside. The 'if' clause that is left out is salient. Leaving it out changes the meaning completely."

Those who designed the monument said the entire quote wouldn't have fit on the statue, so they decided to abbreviate it.

"We sincerely felt passionate that the man's own eulogy should be expressed on the stone," said the memorial's chief architect, Ed Jackson Jr. "We said the least we could do was define who he was based on his perception of himself: 'I was a drum major for this, this, and this."

Former U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said sculptor Lei Yixin will now remove the quote from the monument, CBS News reported.

"The plan to remove, instead of replace, the quote was recommended by the original sculptor ... as the safest way to ensure the structural integrity of the memorial was not compromised," Salazar explained.

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