For months, observers said the truncated version etched into granite — “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness” — was an insult to the civil rights leader, whose memorial was dedicated by President Obama and other dignitaries on Oct. 16. Poet Maya Angelou said that the shortened version of the quote made King sound “arrogant.”
Ken Salazar, the secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, said he met with members of the King family and decided to replace the text with the full quote: “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 said it was important “that all aspects of its words, design and meaning stay true to Dr. King’s life and legacy.”
“As promised, the Secretary and the Park Service involved the family and other interested parties and have accomplished just that with the proposed correction by the Secretary,” she said in a statement.
The Park Service said it expects that portions of the granite stones that carry the letters of the existing quote will have to be replaced.
Ed Jackson Jr., the executive architect of the $120 million project, told the Associated Press that removing the inscription now will amount to “defacing” the memorial because any new granite added to the memorial would be a noticeably different color.
“There is no way you can match the existing stone and color,” he said. “It will continue to age differently, even if you went to the same quarry.”
Officials hope to replace the granite stones by Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January and pay for the change at least in part through private donations.
The full quote was previously approved by the Fine Arts Commission during the design review process so work can begin without any further review.