Work completed on MLK memorial

Story highlights

  • Sandblasting completed on King Memorial
  • That follows removal of controversial passage
  • 50th anniversary of King speech this month

The National Mall's Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial will be ready for events later this month commemorating the 50th anniversary of his "I Have a Dream Speech."

Sandblasting on King's monument was completed Thursday night after delays over a company not having proper insurance.

The National Park Service's Historic Preservation Training Center ended up doing the work, said spokeswoman Carol Johnson. The park service, which was not initially aware that the sandblasting would be required, is "very happy" with the completed project, she said.

The remainder of the scaffolding will be taken down in coming days.

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The completion of the work follows the removal of a controversial written message inscribed on the memorial's side.

The memorial had originally included a paraphrase from the famed Civil Rights leader's "Drum Major" speech that read: "I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness."

In 2011, famed poet Maya Angelou, a friend of King, pointed out that the statue took the original quote out of context in a manner that she said made King look arrogant.

Americans urged to live MLK's ideals at memorial dedication

Two months before he was assassinated in 1968, King in fact said: "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."

The work at the site is expected to cost between $700,000 and $800,000, according to Bob Vogel, superintendent of the National Mall and Memorial Parks. The money is coming not from taxpayer dollars but from a fund established for repairs.

The memorial, designed by Chinese artist Lei Yixin, opened in the summer of 2011. It features a large statue of King carved into the centerpiece "Stone of Hope," a large block set apart from the memorial's "Mountain of Despair," from which it appears to emerge.

King gave his famous speech at the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28, 1963.