One of the top attractions in Washington DC is the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial - an incredible tribute to a great leader and symbol freedom. Come explore!
One of the newest additions to the list of DC Monuments is the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial. The architect, Marshall Purnell, was former president of the American Institute of Architects. This memorial’s unveiling was set for August 2011 because that month was the 48th anniversary of the March on Washington led by Martin Luther King, Jr. However, the opening ceremony of the memorial did not occur in August due to a freak 5.8 earthquake. Eventually the MLK Memorial was officially unveiled in October 2011.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial, open 24/7 is located ½ block southwest of the National Mall in Potomac Park on the Tidal Basin just east of the Franklin D Roosevelt Memorial. The entrance to the memorial is a wide cattycorner plaza at the intersection of Independence Ave, SW, and West Basin Drive, SW. There are restrooms adjacent to the MLK bookstore across the street. Both close in the evening.
Once at the entry plaza, stop and look south! There will be two enormous boulders ahead of you and another boulder looming off in the distance (before the edge of the Tidal Basin). The statuary component of the memorial is based on a line from King’s famous I Have a Dream speech, “Out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” The two boulders in the distance represent the Mountain of Despair and the third boulder pushed out very close to the Tidal Basin is the Stone of hope.
At this point move forward through the Mountain of Despair and you will see the famous quote “Out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope” carved on the west side of the statue’s base. Continue moving forward and turn and face the boulders and you will see the bas relief statue of Martin Luther King, Jr, embedded in the Stone of Hope. Follow the gaze of the statue out into the mist of the Tidal Basin…
The creator of the statuary is a prominent Chinese sculptor, Li Yixin. He was discovered by the King Memorial Project Foundation committee at a granite carving festival in Minnesota and later named head sculptor for the Stone of Hope statue at the MLK Memorial. Much controversy ensued because the stone for the statue itself was sourced in China and virtually all the work on the statue was done in China.
The balance of the memorial is devoted to bringing to life MLK’s most famous quotes which appear on curving granite wall that flank the I Have a Dream statuary. Water features spring from the Mountain of Despair and the entire Memorial area on the bank of the Tidal Basin – no matter what time of year you visit - is deeply spiritual and contemplative.
The award-winning parklike area around the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial was created by landscape architect, Oehme van Sweden (OvS). This landscape reflects the newest ideas of green infrastructure using trees, plants and soil to welcome and protect visitors to the Memorial while also protecting the environment itself at the edge of the Tidal Basin from erosion and flooding.