News24

Martin Luther King memorial quote ditched

2012-12-13 14:00

Washington - A controversially paraphrased quote from Martin Luther King Jnr is to be erased from the Washington monument honouring the slain civil rights leader, officials said on Wednesday.

Taking advice from the monument's Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin, the Department of Interior opted to remove the "drum major" inscription altogether, rather than engrave the original phrase in its entirety.

Lei and his team will undertake the work themselves sometime after Martin Luther King Day - a federal holiday that falls on 21 January, the same day as the public inauguration of President Barack Obama's second term.

Critics said the quote on the white granite monument - "I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness" - took King's original words out of context and made him appear to have been arrogant.

King had said in a sermon a few months before his 1968 assassination: "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."

Obama dedicated the monument - the only one on the National Mall dedicated to a person of a minority ethnic background or to an individual who was never a US president - in October last year.