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Maya Angelou: MLK Memorial Makes Him “Look Like An Arrogant Twit”

Submitted by on September 7, 2011 – 8:33 am2 Comments

A shortened quotation on the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C. makes the civil rights pioneer “look like an arrogant twit,” according to legendary writer Maya Angelou.

The original quotation came from King’s sermon on the dangers of ego, “The Drum Major Instinct.”  Only a few months before his assassination, King eerily discussed his own death, explaining that he did not want to be remembered for his awards and achievements,  but for how he tried to do the right thing: “Yes, 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.”

Last minute changes to the monument left much less room for the quote. The stone inscription now reads: I was a drum major for justice, peace, and righteousness.

“The quote makes Dr. Martin Luther King look like an arrogant twit,” said Angelou. She emphasized that the “if” in the quote has a world of importance. “Leaving it out changes the meaning completely,” she told the Washington Post.

The memorial’s executive architect, Ed Jackson Jr., disagreed that the quote sounded arrogant. Speaking to NPR, he also pointed out that it is only one of fourteen quotations at the memorial.

Jackson claims to hear a lot about what Dr. King “would” and “would not” have wanted. “But we’re not building this for Dr. King,” he said, “we’re building this in honor of his legacy…to inspire others to follow in his footsteps.”

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