Interior Secretary Orders Quote on MLK Memorial Changed Following Complaints

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has ordered a disputed inscription on the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington D.C. be changed. It reads, “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.’’ (Charles Dharapak/Associated Press)

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has ordered an inscription carved into the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington be changed, after complaints that the quote does not accurately reflect the civil rights leader’s words.

The inscription, “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness,” paraphrases a sermon King delivered in 1968, two months before he was assassinated:

“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.”

Poet Maya Angelou was one of the leading critics of the inscription when the memorial was dedicated last year. As The Blaze previously reported, Angelou slammed the quote, saying it makes King look like “an arrogant twit” outside its proper context.

According to the Washington Post, Salazar has given the National Park Service 30 days to come up with a more accurate alternative.

“This is important because Dr. King and his presence on the Mall is a forever presence for the United States of America, and we have to make sure that we get it right,” Salazar told the Post.

Ed Jackson Jr., the executive architect of the $120 million project, previously said King’s words were shortened due to space constraints.

He said in an emailed statement to the Associated Press Friday that the cost to make changes to the inscription will be assessed but none of the existing stone work will be removed.

“A few very carefully selected words will be added to the existing phrase; that will further amplify his statement about his role in America during the mid-20th century as a leader, a social advocate, a messenger, a voice of the people … for freedom, justice, hope and peace,” Jackson said.

Harry Johnson, president of the King Memorial Foundation, told the AP it wasn’t yet clear what the alternatives might be. The group would look at all the ways a change could be made, he said.

The ongoing inscription dust-up is just one of the controversies that’s surrounded the King memorial. Others have complained that its sculptor Lei Yixin is Chinese, not American, and have charged that King’s stern-looking facial expression does not portray his peaceful nature.