The controversial inscription on the side of the Martin Luther King, Jr. statue which Maya Angelou said made the civil rights leader look like an “arrogant twit” will finally be changed – hopefully for the better. The National Park Service has less than 30 days to consult with the King Memorial Foundation and others, including members of King’s family, to find a better quotation, MSNBC reports.
The quotation on the left side of the memorial statue completed by Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin & American architect Ed Jackson, Jr. read: “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.” The final and rather poor selection was actually an excerpt of a longer statement once uttered by Dr. King on February 4, 1968, at Ebenezer Baptist Church, two months prior to his assassination. On what his eulogy should reflect upon his untimely death, the civil rights legend actually stated:
“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.”
The unveiling of the statue and accompanying quote caused an outcry of disappointment – to say the least. Maya Angelou was outspoken at the time, saying that the quote minimized Dr. King adding “He was far too profound a man for that four-letter word to apply. He had no arrogance at all. 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.”
US Interior Ken Salazar told the Washington Post that the original quotation was selected for the sake of brevity, but the multitude of complaints appear to have lead the way for change: “This is important because Dr King and his presence on the Mall is a forever presence for the United States of America, and we have to make sure that we get it right,” Salazar said.
It’s highly unfortunate that they couldn’t “get it right” from the jump, and certainly in time for the official holiday that celebrates the life and lessons of the freedom fighting trailblazer. Perhaps they’ll unveil the new inscription some time during Black History Month. Let’s hope they make better use of the considerably ample amount of space this time around.