Inside the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial
On Oct. 16, tens of thousands gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to witness the official dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial.
One of the many people who worked for decades to bring that moment to pass, Frank Russell Jr. played a vital role in realizing this dream, of adding the monument for King to a place where America honors its greatest leaders. On this hallowed ground, where the highest respect is paid to the sacrifices that shaped this nation’s history, he also brought Las Vegas Black Image Magazine together with Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation President/CEO Harry Johnson. Together, they offered the ultimate insiders’ look at the facts behind this new and indelible piece of the American identity.
• Efforts to build the memorial began 28 years ago with six members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity from the Silver Springs, Md. area. The fraternity’s national organization later assumed control of the initiative, after former President Bill Clinton signed a 1996 bill authorizing it to begin raising funds through the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation. The fraternity raised an initial $4 million toward the memorial.
• All funds raised went toward building the memorial and administration of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation. There was no cost for the memorial site land, because the federal government acquired it and provided it to the foundation.
• The nation’s first such tribute to a single African-American, the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial is also the first honor of its kind for an individual who did not serve as president of the United States.
• At a total cost of $120 million, the King sculpture at the memorial stands 30 feet tall. The site also contains a 450-foot inscription wall featuring 14 quotations from King’s speeches, sermons and writings.
• The $120 million was used to finance construction of the memorial, pay administrative costs, fund foundation operations and pay into a federal catastrophe fund that protects the memorial in the event of a disaster.
• Though it does not administer any tours of the memorial, the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation will continue to exist with objectives to educate people about the memorial; help steer visitors to the memorial site; and develop programing throughout the year in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
• The Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation reported to three different federal agencies during the development of the site: the National Park Service, the National Capital Planning Commission, and the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts.
• President Obama’s role in the process was to accept the memorial on behalf of the foundation and the American public.
• There were three African-Americans who gave at least $1 million toward development of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial: Sheila Johnson, co-founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET); San Francisco real estate tycoon Victor McFarland; and businessman Robert Smith.
• The majority of people who contributed financially to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial were not African-American.
• Before her death in 2006, Coretta Scott King sat on the memorial’s Executive Leadership Cabinet.
• It is not known whether the stone wall around the memorial displaying Dr. King’s “drum major” quote, which has become a source of controversy, will ever be reconstructed.
• Master sculptor Lei Yixin of China, whose talents have made him a national treasure in his country, was selected to create the memorial sculpture.
• People are invited to visit the www.buildthedream.com and MLKmemorial.org websites to learn more about the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial.