Thank Federal Officials for Removing Incorrect Quote from Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

Target: U.S. Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar

Goal: Thank federal officials for removing abbreviated quote on the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

The inscription on the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial at the National Mall in Washington is an abbreviated quote that critics have asked to be revised in order to properly represent King. After a year of controversy regarding what to do about the truncated quote, federal officials have reported the quote will be removed rather than replaced. Please sign this petition and thank the Interior Secretary and for correctly representing King by removing the words and maintaining the structure’s integrity.

Acclaimed poet and author, Maya Angelou sparked controversy in 2011 when she called attention to the abbreviated quote and negative connotation associated. The line reads: “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.” In fact, King’s original words, from a 1968 sermon were, “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 righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.” Angelou thinks leaving out the “if” changes the meaning and makes King appear to be arrogant.

Federal officials had first planned to replace the inscription but have now decided to remove it in order to ensure the structural integrity of the memorial. The 30-foot statue of King, arms folded across his chest, emerging from a “Stone of Hope” represents King as the symbol of hope emerging from a mountain of despair.

Bernice A. King, King’s youngest daughter and CEO of the King Center in Atlanta is grateful to Secretary Salazar’s office for taking, “such care to maintain the spirit and appearance of such an important monument to our country’s history and my father’s memory.” Please join King in thanking Secretary Salazar for responding to the abbreviated quote mistake while maintaining the spirit of the memorial.


Dear Secretary Salazar,

After a year of controversy surrounding the inscription on the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall, I wanted to thank you for finally moving to remove the words. Once it was discovered that King had been misquoted on his own memorial, it was pretty clear that something needed to happen to correct the situation. While it would have been nice to correct the inscription rather than remove it, it is appreciated that removal is the best way to ensure the structural integrity of the memorial, which is the spirit of the memorial.

I would hope that this project, which is bound to be costly, will encourage your office to more closely research the historical integrity of monuments and their meaning prior to breaking ground. It was clear in this situation that the “quote” was an abbreviated statement that misrepresented King and his intentions during that sermon. The truncated inscription does make King appear arrogant and it did need to be corrected or removed, and so I thank you for fixing it while maintaining the integrity and spirit of the monument.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: dc.about via Yahoo

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43 Signatures

  • Ana Maria Mainhardt Carpes
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  • Darlene Roepke
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