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another view of the main feature of the monument
Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial
Closest available address
400 West Basin Drive Southwest Washington, D.C. 20003
The park is open 24 hours. Rangers are available 9:30 am to 11:30 pm.
30 minutes or less
Best time to visit
Summer, Fall, Spring
District of Columbia
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is a 4 acre plaza and stone monument to the US civil rights leader. It is located next to the Tidal Basin and near the Jefferson Memorial. In addition to the central stone with a 30 foot relief of King, there are walls with inscriptions of King's thoughts.
As with many government initiatives in Washington D.C., the King Memorial took too many years to plan, design and build, was poorly managed, created controversies and cost too much. Authorized in 1996, construction did not commence until 2009 and the memorial was completed in 2011 for a staggering $120 million. A Chinese artist, Lei Yixin, was chosen to carve the large stone image of King, which generated criticism as some felt it should be built in the US. Also, the carving shows King in a defensive posture and with a critical expression, characteristics inconsistent with his legacy of hope, nonviolence and social justice.
While a visit takes only a few minutes, the memorial is still of negligible interest and merit. The stone carving of King and the mountain of despair that he emerges from is the key attraction, but the stones themselves resemble a cheap backdrop from a low budget Hollywood film, hardly a fitting design for such an important civil rights leader. Also, the primary stone is far too large to blend in well with the plaza and scenery or to be suitable for this type of homage. It’s ostentatious and unflattering. The inscriptions are moderately more interesting, but these are just snippets. His views can be better read and appreciated in their entirety. If the memorial is on your way to some other place, perhaps it's worth a minute or two to have a look but as a destination onto itself, only the most ardent King admirers are likely to find it of interest.
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