The MLK Memorial Isn't So Bad

Hampton Dellinger thinks monument is actually quite fitting

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Jan 21, 2013 1:58 PM CST

(Newser) – You've likely heard a lot of complaints about the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, DC, but to mark MLK Day, Hampton Dellinger defends the monument, point-by-point, in the Atlantic today:

  • King's face: Critics say the statue doesn't look much like King, but Dellinger contends that one part totally "nails it": The "fatigue-triggered creases" carved into the granite under each eye. "They are unmistakable and represent the years of psychological strain that King endured."

  • King's figure: Another common complaint is the way King emerges from the rock, leaving his feet unseen. But that unfinished appearance is symbolic of "King's unfinished life and America's unfinished work in the area of civil rights."
  • The setting: Lastly, many are unhappy the monument isn't contained in a covered space. But King first became known as an outsider—not a power player or politician, but a Baptist minister. And if you want to get literal, "much of King's most indelible work literally took place outside. ... King is deeply associated in the public mind with the most public and unprotected of settings."
"The sculpture of King ... makes him much larger than life but no greater than the change he wrought," Dellinger writes. "And it is much more worthy of the man than the dismissive reviews that greeted it." Click for his full column.

This Jan. 15, 2012 file photo shows the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington.
This Jan. 15, 2012 file photo shows the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington.   (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)
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