The memorial, close to the spot where King delivered his historic “I Have A Dream” speech 50 years ago, was installed only in 2011.
However, a contentious quotation has had to be chiselled off the monument in time for the commemoration on Wednesday. The monument bore the line: “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.” It emerged that the Chinese sculptor, Lei Yixin, had actually amended a longer and more nuanced quote taken from a sermon delivered two months before Dr King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968.
The full version read: “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.”
Concerns arose that the contracted version had made Dr King sound egotistical. The author Maya Angelou said it made him sound like an “arrogant twit”. Now, at a cost of more than $700,000, the offending quote has been removed.