Memorials, Art Honoring MLK

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy has been remembered and honored in many ways. Streets, buildings, libraries have been named after him to honor him. But artists are also celebrating his work and his legacy through art.  

Around Washington, D.C. you can find references of the civil rights leader, Dr. King. Many of which honor him through art. In the National Portrait Gallery, there’s a bust of Dr. King in their ‘Struggle for Justice’ exhibit. In the US Capitol Rotunda, where statues and busts of former presidents stand, it also includes a bust of Dr. King. One of the most recognizable pieces of art in is along the National Mall, the MLK Memorial.   

“This is the first major memorial on the National Mall to an individual that wasn’t a president,” said Mike Litterst, spokesperson for National Mall and Memorial Parks.  

The Memorial was unveiled in 2011 on the 48th anniversary of the March on Washington where he gave his famous “I have a dream” speech. Parks service and DC history enthusiasts said this memorial has many layers of symbolism.  

“It’s inspired by a line from his speech on the March on Washington ‘out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope,’” said Litterst. “So visitors when they arrive they come through the narrow opening which represents the mountain of despair and of course Dr. King’s likeness is carved 30 feet into the air on the representative stone of hope.” 

The address, 1964 Independence Avenue, references the year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 became law. Even nature plays a unique role in the Memorial. We’re told the nearby plants represent sacrifice, hope and legacy. Parks service and tour guides hope people take the time to read the quotes from Dr. King along the Memorial because his teachings and work are still relevant today as they were decades ago.  

“I always want people to look into the quotes because you can get a perspective of his mind and the leadership he had at such a young age,” said Deandre Quarles, DC tour guide and local history enthusiast. “One of my favorite quotes is the second one on the lefthand side and it says: ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.’ You can adopt that philosophy in every part of life and if you just use that approach i think the world would be slightly better.”