October 18, 2011 — A 30-foot high stone sculpture monument honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was dedicated on Sunday in Washington, DC.
Dr. King was the leading civil rights movement activist in the 1960’s, and used peaceful means to try to achieve racial equality for African-Americans. During that time, in many places, black people were kept separate (segregated) in daily life — by law — from the ‘white’ population, including not being allowed to attend the same schools, eat at the same restaurants, or drink from the same water fountains. African-Americans, including children, were also targets of terrible violence.
Dr. King’s efforts included leading marches which increasingly grew in support and size. In 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial (near where his own memorial now stands) he gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech during his March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Nearly 200,000 people attended and it became one of the defining moments of the movement. You can see an excerpt of it here.
Dr. King was killed in 1968 because of the work he was doing and the progress he was making. He was just 39 years old. To watch a brief biography of Dr. King, click below:
The memorial sculpture of Dr. King is called the Stone of Hope, after a line in his “I Have a Dream” speech where he said, “With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.” Dr. King’s likeness represents the stone of hope while two huge pieces of stone from either side of the sculpture of Dr. King, at the entrance, represent the mountains of despair. Some of Dr. King’s famous quotes are inscribed in stone as well. For a 3-D interactive graphic of the memorial by the Washington Post, please click here.
President Obama, our nation’s first black president, spoke at the dedication . Mr. Obama has often credited Dr. King for making it possible for an African-American to be elected president. President Obama was six years old when Dr. King was assassinated. The memorial is also the first to honor an African-American in the area of the National Mall where other leaders are honored. To watch an Associated Press overview video of the event, click here.
President Obama, Dr. King’s family, guest speakers, and those who lived through the civil rights era who were at Sunday’s dedication, agreed that while the country has come a long way in terms of racial equality, it still has a long way to go.
Carolyn Bledsoe, now 70-years old and a retired teacher recalled, in a New York Times interview, being turned away from a McDonald’s restaurant because she was black. Ms. Bledsoe took part in Dr. King’s 1963 March on Washington event and was present at Dr. King’s dedication on Sunday. She told the New York Times: “Some days I feel like we’re at the beginning. Some days I feel like we’re in the middle. But I never feel like we’re at the end.”