The Student News Site of Rockville High School


The Student News Site of Rockville High School


The Student News Site of Rockville High School


Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Honors Civil Rights Leader and Activist

Sarah Spencer
Pink granite statue honors MLK on the National Mall.

Standing 30 feet tall, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington DC honors one of America’s most important civil rights leaders and activists. 

Built in 2011, the MLK Memorial overlooks the Tidal Basin on the National Mall in DC. 

The monument’s street address, 1964 Independence Avenue, references the 1964 Civil Rights Act, advocated by King, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. 

“Dr. King just had this awe-inspiring ability to speak and to lead audiences. There were 200,000 Americans who came to hear him on that August day in 1963 on the steps of the Lincoln memorial,” Park Ranger Jerry Hawn said. “In some ways it was his charisma that helped make him a leader of the civil rights movement.”

The monument sits on a line directly between the Lincoln Monument and Jefferson Memorial. Jefferson first advocated for equal rights in the US Constitution, stating that “All men are created equal.” It wasn’t until Lincoln officially emancipated enslaved Americans  in 1863 that African Americans gained freedom under the law. Between them, King’s advocacy for civil rights brought much greater equality for black Americans. 

“You have two people who were president who talked about liberties and freedoms, who brought an end to slavery, but if it weren’t for the work of this gentlemen those freedoms and liberties would not have taken place,” Hawn said. 

The design for the monument was chosen from a pool of over 900 submissions. Two mounds of pink granite, named the Mountains of Despair, lay on the ground. King stands removed in front of the Mountains, in a stone named A Stone of Hope. The inscription carved into the side of the monument, “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope,” was taken from King’s 1963 I Have a Dream speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. 

“African Americans were given a promise of liberty and freedom in the Declaration of Independence but they never received it,” Hawn said. “He’s holding the note that will bring about the promise of liberty and freedom for all Americans.”

King’s monument is the first on the National Mall to honor a civil activist as opposed to a president or war hero. The monument was designed to be a trailblazer for justice and equality. On either side of the Mountains of Despair, twin waterfalls represent the erosion of the Mountains as America works to achieve greater equality. 

“It’s very important for us as a nation to have this national memorial to someone who was a minority and who did so much to bring equal rights for people of all colors in our country,” Hawn said.

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