Controversial New Martin Luther King, Jr. National Monument Opens to the Public

A new memorial to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. opened without fanfare on Monday morning, but with considerable controversy.

The site was set to open at about 11 a.m. EST. The opening kicks off a week of celebrations leading up to the official dedication of the $120 million memorial on Sunday, August 28.

Controversy over the 30-foot tall statue has emerged over the fact that it was sculpted by Chinese artist Lei Yixin.

Denver-based artist Ed Dwight, who was on an early planning team for the King memorial, said, "Dr. King would be turning over in his grave if he knew [the sculptor was from a communist country,]. "He would rise up from his grave and walk into their offices and go, 'How dare you?'"

The official name of the monument is the Washington, D.C. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Monument. The website for the monument has a virtual tour that can be taken by site visitors.

Among other complaints about the monument are those saying that Dr. King's face looks Asian. It's been added that the expression and demeanor of the status appears confrontational, as King's arms are folded.

That said, the statue's head was chosen by the late civil rights leader's children, Martin Luther King III and Bernice King. Given a choice between the currently used model of King's head, as well as three others Lei had created, the children chose the one on the monument.

Executive architect Ed Jackson, who presented King's children with the choices, said "I informed them that this was the one that had generated all that controversy about their father looking confrontational. Martin said, 'Well if my father was not confrontational, given what he was facing at the time, what else could he be?'"

Despite the complaints, Martin Luther King III complimented Lei's work. He said, "This particular artist — he's done a good job."

The memorial was in the making for over 15 years. Moves to create the monument began with a resolution signed in 1996 by President Bill Clinton to establish a memorial “honoring the life, the dream and the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” on the National Mall. The groundbreaking for the memorial took place on November 13, 2006. This Sunday’s dedication, August 28th, will marks the 48th anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, which he delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963.

It sits on the National Mall near the Tidal Basin, between memorials honoring Presidents Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, and includes the aformentioned 30-foot-tall sculpture of King, as well as a 450-foot-long granite wall inscribed with 14 of King's quotations.

You can watch the virtual tour, embedded below.

Image Source: Video Capture

Comments

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
As long as your treat him equally as a human being, I sincerely doubt MLK would care that the artist came from a communist country. Obviously, there are still many in this country who do not understand the message he was trying to preach.

Submitted by Karen Keefer (not verified) on
Anonymous is correct that those who question the origination of Dr. King's statue don't understand Dr. King's messages in the many years he fought for breaking down barriers to allow all God's children (i.e., all of us from all races, countries, backgrounds, etc.) to sit together in peace. One of his great statements is, "Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline." Seems as if some who complain about this great piece of work--long overdue--just don't get it!

Submitted by Roger James (not verified) on
Ms. Karen, I am curious to know if have done any research on the original artist Ed Dwight and how he was phased out of the project entirely. I have talked to both sides I hope you do the same. There is a lot that is not being mentioned or brought out on this entire project.

Submitted by Winfrey Young (not verified) on
In one article, the sculptor said, through his son because he doesn't speak English, that the monument's serious demeanor indicates that Dr. King is "thinking." Yixin is right! Dr. King is thinking 1) How in hell is a monument to me carved by an atheist Communist artist who did not have a clue who I was until he was handed the job of creating my monument! He's thinking 2) Why is the granite for my monument made from China, quarried by workers paid $2 per day, when I was murdered standing up for workers rights!! He's thinking 3) What a fitting monument to present to a native son/civil rights leader/Nobel Laureate. A sculpture "Made In China" and presented on our National Mall by a country with one of the worst human rights and civil rights records on this planet. Yep. Dr. King would be proud.

Submitted by CarolTM (not verified) on
Winfrey Young nailed it - could not have been said better!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
Jesus was confrontational, yet much of the artwork of him is not. Nevertheless, it was his family's choice which must be respected. I lived through those times, was 20 when he was murdered. MLK was a wonderful leader of the civil rights movement. His legacy will live on with the memorial, and it will educate future generations of the importance of being judged not by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character.

Submitted by whitney (not verified) on
My controversary is that they DID NOT use a African American artist to do it. Why pay the Chineses when we have accomplised black artist and sculpters to for fill the misssion. Just because we owe them money doesn't mean we have to pay them first regarding other projects.

Submitted by douglas4jesus (not verified) on
You are joking right?! African-American? Dr. King fought for PEOPLE to be free in America! Not Africans, Europeans or Asians....Americans. Why do racists hide behind the great man of God that fought all kinds of racism?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
I see that some of you are still lost. Its a blessing that we have a memorial for Dr.King in the country we live in. He needs to be remember if a blackman did the sculpture or not. How many of you donated to the memorial while you are making negative comments.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
NO DISRESPECT, BUT DID THE (ASIAN) GUY THAT DID THE NEW MICHAEL CLARK DUNCAN...,UH....., I MEAN THE MLK STATUE IN D.C. EVER SEE A PICTURE OF THE MAN? ALTHOUGH THE SCULPTURE IS BOLD AND MODERN, FACE IT, IT DOESN'T LOOK ANYTHING LIKE THE MAN IT IS SUPPOSED TO DEPICT. ASIDE FROM THAT, ALL THIS BABBLE ABOUT AN ASIAN GUY BEING CHOSEN AS THE SCULPTOR INSTEAD OF SOMEONE OF A DARKER COLOR AMOUNTS TO NOTHING BUT PURE RACISM. CORRECT ME IF I'M WRONG, BUT ISN'T THIS THE TYPE THING DR. KING FOUGHT AGAINST? I'M SURE HE WOULD APPRECIATE THE RECOGNITION EVEN THOUGH THE ARTIST IS OF A DIFFERENT RACE. NOW LETS MOVE ON TO BITCHING ABOUT JOHN MAYER PEFROMING AT MICHAEL JACKSON'S FUNERAL, SHALL WE? I GUESS JIMI HENDRIX IS DEAD, SO THERE WAS NO OTHER CHOICE. HOW DARE THE JACKSON FAMILY ALLOW ANYONE BUT AN AFRO-AMERCAN TO PEFORM AT MICHAEL'S FUNERAL. HOPE YOU CATCH MY DRIFT ON THIS ISSUE?????

Submitted by tan000,000,000,01 (not verified) on
There is no doubt that "communism" is a dirty word in this country. When a country is labeled "communist", so is everyone in it. Young and old, men and women. You may be merely one of 13,000,000,000; still, the color of you is red, so red that the color penetrates your skin, all the way to your soul. So the color of your skin no longer matters, but that deeper than skin red, by god that has to still matter, does it not? Mr. Lei, being one of them, surely he is not worth any more than 3/5 of a human being, is he? Is it not an insult to the great Americans that such a person would get to create such an important statue? As one of “them”, I can assure you that Chinese people sincerely appreciate the greatness of Dr. Martin Luther King. That is because “they” were robbed of literally billions of ounces of silvers by European invaders at gun point. Their children were killed. Their women were raped. They were told that “no Chinese and dogs are allowed” in their own city parks. From the receiving end of such racial prejudice, they have been longing for someone like Martin Luther King to come along to change the world. Martin Luther King did change this world. His greatness does not just belong to people of African descent. His greatness belongs to the entire mankind. Those who fail to see the magnitude of his achievements may be still harboring prejudice in themselves in thinking that the significance of Martin Luther King’s legacy is only limited to “blacks”. When Dr. Martin Luther King spoke up against the Viet Nam war, many in the black civil right movement could not understand the relevance of the Viet Nam war debate to their own cause. But Dr. Martin Luther King’s was way above the average thinkers. His vision reaches the entire world. Let us all remember Dr. Martin Luther King together. He made this entire world a better place for us all: black, or white, or even “the red Chinese”.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
I think the cost, "$120 million", would have been better spent on helping those less fortunate, you could split it up between a 1,000 people and that would be more that they would normally get in a lifetime.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
I can not believed we paid CHINA to do this work!!! That is why our country is in so much trouble right now, everything is made in CHINA!!! Come on! When are we going to wake up and realize we have destroyed our own country. Yes, nice he got a monument but it should have been done from rock in our country and by one of our artists. Plus, that 120 m sure would have been spent better on starving people in our own country, or the old who now don't qualify for anything. We all better wake up before we have nothing!!!!

Submitted by Roger James (not verified) on
My issue is that this was done in China and that it was not a open bid for other artist to create the sculpture. I called the organizers and they told me it was a open worldwide bid to do the sculpture, I spoke to quite a few very prominent artists and they never heard of any sort of bid. In other words, it was not a open bid. MLK is 20th century american icon YET ITS DONE IN CHINA. What part of that do some of ya'll not understand? Do you think that if an Asian figure similar to MLK has a sculpture created of him/her they would even think to go to the US to have it done ?????? Some of yall are too clueless. We have the most talented artist in the US yet no kind of national bid was allowed for such a prestigious piece????? Its amazing how black people are so easy accepting to other people presenting them in a movie "ForHelp" now the sculpture done by someone, again, not only not black but not even in this country. I have no personal ill-will to the Asian artist. I have a major problem with US artists not having a chance to really place a bid. I guess that explains why the funding of $10million was not given for the project. AGAIN , I have no issue with the artist chosen( i have to make this clear so some person won't misquote me) . I have an issue with the process in how it was handled. If this was a real worldwide bid, it definitely would have gained news. I don't know how a few nationally known artist I personally know were unaware of this so called "worldwide bid".Its baffling how so many black people are too easy and ready to accept other people representing them or telling their story and wonder why you don't have good portrayals represented of yourselves.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
We had an African American artist to do the project, MR. ED DWIGHT, but he was fired for some reason. There are others including MR. ED HAMILTON, who are quite capable of completing the task. Their works are available all over the United States and MR. DWIGHT in Canada.

Submitted by RJ (not verified) on
You have so missed the who point. Before you post an anonymous email. Get your fact straights. The point is there was not an open bid for the artist chosen second, the original artist (black) was phased out(did you know that or are you as foolish as the rest as to accept whatever is being told to you). The point is we have very talented artist in the US states black and white yet you spend millions of dollars to important not just the asian artists but 20 or so of his apprentices to assist. Do you know how many talented struggling people who are in the US that could have been used yet the APA (alpha phi alpha) were stupid enough to do something idiotic like this. Finally what does MJ have to do with this????? Too many people now are too easy to accept what is told to them and not willing to do research. Do your research before talking nonsense P.S. there was roughly $120 million used to build this project and this commission couldn't get a lot of the funds because they didn't have an open bid on this commissioned project which is why they have been trying to get as many donations as possible.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
I am suprised about the statue itself, every time I have been to DC you hear on every tour about the law about statues in Washington DC not being allowed to be over 19 feet i.e. taller than Freedom which is atop the capital building. Reasoning is that nothing is bigger than Freedom, but MLK statue stands 30 feet. If the statement about all the statues not allowed taller than 19 feet is actually an ordinance or law, why would this monmument be allowed to have a statue that tall.

Submitted by douglas4jesus (not verified) on
I am still scratching my head as to the "body language" this statue shows. I have always been an admirer of MLKJ, yet never saw him with such a "closed" stance with the smug look on his face. This look rings more of Obama than Mr. King. And PLEASE spare me any comparison, because there is none! Mr. King was a great man of conviction and integrity.....'nuff said.

Submitted by douglas4jesus (not verified) on
Either the "Made in China" stamp is there or the "owned by China" deed is there. lol