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Martin Luther King memorial inscription 'to change'

14 January 12 01:10
President Barack Obama speaks at a dedication ceremony of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial in Washington October 16, 2011

An inaccurate inscription on the newly opened Martin Luther King memorial in Washington is to be changed, it is reported.

The quotation "I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness" was originally part of a longer sentence but was inscribed out of context.

Now US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar wants a new quotation found within 30 days, the Washington Post reports.

The 30ft (9m) granite statue was inaugurated in October 2011.

It was originally planned to have opened in August, but the dedication ceremony was delayed when Hurricane Irene hit Washington.

It lies alongside the National Mall in Washington, not far from the spot on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where where King delivered his famous "I have a dream" speech in 1963.

The report of Mr Salazar's decision comes as the US prepares to mark Martin Luther King Day, a federal holiday marking the anniversary of his birth.


When the memorial was first unveiled, a Washington Post columnist noted that the quote inscribed on the side of the edifice made King sound "conceited".

Investigations into the origin of the quote revealed that the full sentence imparted a subtly different meaning.

King did speak those words, in Memphis two months before he was shot dead there in 1968, but they were prefaced by a caveat: ""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."

Mr Salazar told the Washington Post he had now ordered the National Park Service to consult with the Martin Luther King Foundation, and the civil rights leader's family, to decide on a more appropriate inscription.

"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," he said.

The memorial was designed by Master Lei Yixin, a Chinese sculptor, and overseen by an American architect, Ed Jackson.

He told the Washington Post in September 2011 that the decision to paraphrase the full quotation had been made by the design team in the interest of brevity.

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