Angelou: Misleading Quote Makes King Look Like 'Twit'

...and 'arrogant' and an 'egoist,' she complains

By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 31, 2011 9:21 AM CDT

(Newser) – Add Maya Angelou to the chorus of voices who are none too pleased with how the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial turned out. There's already been some hullabaloo over the fact that one of the quotes on the wall by the Tidal Basin wasn't actually uttered by King, but the one Angelou has a gripe with is a little more prominent: It's on the north face of the memorial itself. It reads, "I was a drum major for justice, peace, and righteousness." The line "makes Dr. Martin Luther King look like an arrogant twit," she said yesterday.

Thing is, that line isn't exactly what he said. It had to be paraphrased following a change in the statue's design, a decision that was made without checking with Angelou, who consulted on the project, reports the Washington Post. The original quote, which came from a sermon he gave two months before he was killed, reads, "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 peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter." Angelou, who would like the quote changed, says that "the 'if' clause that is left out is salient. Leaving it out changes the meaning completely. It makes him seem less than the humanitarian he was. . . . It makes him seem an egotist." (And in other misquote news...)

The Martin Luther King Memorial is seen along the tidal basin on the National Mall in Washington, the morning after Hurricane Irene moved through the East Coast, Sunday, Aug., 28, 2011.
The Martin Luther King Memorial is seen along the tidal basin on the National Mall in Washington, the morning after Hurricane Irene moved through the East Coast, Sunday, Aug., 28, 2011.   (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
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