Salazar, Jarvis Announce Plan to Correct ‘Drum Major Quote' on the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

Last edited 09/05/2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following a meeting on Monday, Feb. 6, with members of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s family regarding the recently-dedicated Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on the National Mall, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis today announced a plan to correct the so-called “Drum Major” quote on the Memorial to more accurately reflect the meaning and intent of Dr. King's original statement.

Observers and visitors to the new memorial have noted that a quote etched in the stone near the statue's left shoulder is paraphrased from a passage in a sermon that Dr. King delivered at Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church in 1968. The paraphrased quote reads: “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.”

Under the plan announced today, the current paraphrased quote would be removed and replaced with the entire text of the exact quote as delivered by Dr. King. The original quote reads as follows: “Yes, 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.”

“President Obama's dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial was a proud moment for our country and a reminder of the continuing relevance of Dr. King's dream of dignity, respect and justice for all,” said Secretary Salazar. “With a monument so powerful and timeless, it is especially important that all aspects of its words, design and meaning stay true to Dr. King's life and legacy.”

“My Aunt Christine and I along with other family members want to thank Secretary Salazar and the National Park Service for their considerable efforts regarding the correction of the quote on the Monument in order as the Secretary put it ‘to make sure we get it right,'” said Bernice King, Dr. King's youngest daughter. “As promised, the Secretary and the Park Service involved the family and other interested parties and have accomplished just that with the proposed correction by the Secretary.”

“Under the careful stewardship of the National Park Service, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial will stand for all time,” said Director Jarvis. “Visitors 100 years from now will be inspired by his own words, and know how Dr. King's leadership advanced the cause of civil rights for all Americans.”

The National Park Service expects that portions of the granite stones that carry the letters of the existing quote will have to be replaced. NPS is exploring a range of options to fund the correction, including philanthropic support. Director Jarvis has set a goal of completing the work in time for the celebration of Dr. King's birthday in January 2013. The full quote was previously approved by the Fine Arts Commission and other required entities during the design review process for the Memorial and therefore it does not need further review before advancing.


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