Interesting facts about the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

One of the sites students often visit when traveling with us to Washington, D.C., is the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. Dr. King dreamed of a world with equality for all, and his memorial between the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials on the National Mall stands as a tribute to his legacy.

Opened 48 years after Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, the MLK Memorial stands 30 feet high. Dr. King’s likeness is carved into the Stone of Hope, emerging from two boulders, which started as one and represent the Mountain of Despair. Together, they are meant to represent the stirring words of Dr. King’s speech. Watch the speech below.

On the visible side of the Stone of Hope, the words “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope,” a line from Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, is cut into the stone. Visitors enter through the Mountain of Despair and tour the memorial as though moving through Dr. King’s struggles before ending up in the open freedom of the plaza.

Here are a few more fun facts about the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial:

  • The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial was originally supposed to open on August 22, 2011. The date was moved to October 16, 2011 due to damages from Hurricane Irene.
  • The MLK Memorial came about thanks in large part to the efforts of the fraternity that MLK belonged to, Alpha Phi Alpha.
  • The design of the memorial is the result of a very competitive bidding process. More than 900 applicants from 52 countries tried to win the design honor.
  • The address for the memorial is 1964 Independence Ave., referencing the 1964 Civil Rights act.
  • Nature is an important part of the memorial’s design. The cherry trees are positioned to bloom in a particular spot, so as to cause the effect of Martin Luther King Jr. gazing upon them.

Watch Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech:

Learn more about our Washington, D.C., programs.


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