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Washington's Chinese Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

Posted: Dec. 26th, 2012  |  By Michael Pearse
National Mall & Memorial Parks

There's something about a uncharacteristically posed, Chinese crafted effigy of the history's leading black civil rights activist carved in white marble that hasn't caught the affection of anyone in Washington D.C. With even the inscription, a paraphrase of a lesser known quote from the great speaker, creating controversy, this is one of the nation's monuments that may not be as well-loved as it deserves.

Love for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on Washington D.C.’s National Mall was far from universal when it was unveiled in October 2011. Detractors asked why an American monument should be made of granite sourced from China and fashioned by Chinese artisans. Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page asked why white granite, for that matter, should be used to portray a black man. Still more onlookers asked why an eminently peaceful and compassionate leader who stood at a moderate 5 feet 7 inches should be memorialized as a giant, military stoic slightly resembling Mao Zedong. Most of all, people complained that a quote inscribed on the monument — now scheduled to be removed instead of replaced — made King sound uncharacteristically boastful.

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