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Maya Angelou criticizes passage on King memorial

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Angelou criticizes King Memorial passage
  • NEW: The memorial's architect stands by the quote, says no changes are planned
  • Angelou says an important clause was taken out of a quote
  • The edited quote makes Martin Luther King Jr. appear arrogant, Angelou says
  • Angelou says she hopes the inscription can be changed at some point

Washington (CNN) -- Celebrated poet and author Maya Angelou continued her criticism of the inscription etched on the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial, saying an edit of the civil rights leader's statement makes him appear arrogant.

In a statement issued earlier this week, the memorial's executive architect Ed Jackson stood by the wording and said there are no plans to alter the structure.

Yet such comments haven't curbed criticism of the new memorial, which was unveiled in August and has many of King's quotes on it. Angelou singled out one such inscription earlier this week, and didn't back down from her critique in an interview Saturday with CNN's T.J. Holmes.

One of the inscriptions reads: "I was a drum major for justice peace and righteousness."

Angelou says the passage was edited from a 1968 sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta and an important clause was taken out.

King's original words 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 peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter."

Leaving out the "if" changes the meaning, Angelou said.

"It should not be seen like he was so full of himself. Because he was not. He was a very humble man," she said. "It is not an apt reportage of what Dr. King said. It is an edited statement."

Angelou said she hoped the inscription can be changed at some point.

"My desire to have it changed is for the honesty, the reality of the man. So he can be seen as he really was," Angelou said.

Jackson, who oversaw the memorial's design and construction, said in a statement issued Wednesday -- when such criticism was beginning to brew -- that the memorial foundation "feels comfortable with the choices we needed to make based on the space available and the messages that we wanted to convey to visitors."

He said a "council of historians" had been consulted, adding they suggested 14 quotations and two statements for possible inclusion on the monument's granite walls that "best characterize and reflect" King as a leader as well as his values.

"In no way do we believe that this paraphrased statement diminishes Dr. King's intent of the words he delivered," Jackson said. "The inscription on the Stone of Hope comes directly from Dr. King's words."