Washington’s Martin Luther King Jr Memorial Opens to Public

Posted August 22nd, 2011 at 1:30 pm (UTC-5)
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The memorial dedicated to U.S. civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. has opened to the public, ahead of an official dedication ceremony on Sunday .

Located on Washington's National Mall, the memorial site features a 9-meter-tall statue of King and a long granite wall inscribed with key quotations from the minister, civil rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner who was assassinated in 1968. It is situated between other memorials honoring U.S. presidents Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln.

Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin built the statue, which depicts King emerging from a stone with a stern facial expression, his arms folded and clutching papers in his left hand.

Organizers say the monument is the first tribute to a person of color on the National Mall, and “diversifies” an area that previously contained only memorials to presidents and wars. They say the King memorial cost $120 million, with much of the money raised from charitable donations by individuals and foundations.

The official dedication on Sunday is timed to coincide with the 48th anniversary of the March on Washington, in which hundreds of thousands of people rallied on the National Mall for jobs and equality, and King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. President Barack Obama is scheduled to speak at the ceremony.

The King memorial is located at 1964 Independence Avenue, an address referring to the year the Civil Rights Act was signed into law by president Lyndon Johnson.

The monument is the latest in a series of additions to the National Mall over the past two decades. The Korean War Memorial opened in 1995. A monument honoring president Franklin Roosevelt was dedicated in 1997 followed by the World War Two Memorial in 2004.