Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream has returned to Washington.
The memorial honoring King’s legacy opened to the public for the first time August 22. Built on four acres of the National Mall, the memorial includes a 450-foot inscription wall with more than a dozen quotations selected by a council of historians from King’s writing, sermons and speeches. A “stone of hope,” separated from a “mountain of despair,” features a 30-foot (9-meter) sculpture of King. The memorial is reminiscent of a phrase in his speech in which King said his dream and his faith would allow civil rights marchers to go back to the South and “hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.”
The King Memorial is near the Abraham Lincoln Memorial, from the steps of which King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in the summer of 1963. At the time, African Americans in many places were segregated from whites in schools, shopping places and restaurants and on buses. Their attempts to register to vote in the South often were met with violence. King had begun a long campaign of nonviolent resistance to rectify these wrongs. In his “Dream” speech, King said his people would not be satisfied “until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Less than one year later, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, ending segregation practices.
The opening of the memorial to the public begins a week of events in Washington, including concerts and symposiums, leading up to the dedication ceremony on August 28.