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Edit Due for King Memorial Quote
January 16, 2012

A quotation carved into the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C., will be changed to make it accurate.

The Department of the Interior, which administers the memorial, announced the change to the Mall memorial in the wake of criticism of what amounts to a paraphrase of a much longer quote uttered by the famed civil rights leader. The memorial, which opened last fall, has a 30-foot sculpture of King and a few other large slabs of granite. Among the 14 King quotations on a low wall near the tall rockworks is an excerpt from a 1968 sermon titled "The Drum Major Instinct."

The quote on the memorial reads "I was a drum major for justice, peace, and righteousness." However, that's not exactly what King said. His exact words were these: "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 quote was paraphrased to save space on the memorial. This is not an unknown practice. The Jefferson Memorial has similarly altered quotes.

The memorial has attracted a good many visitors since its opening in September. In the first two months, nearly 1 million people visited, more than visited either the Lincoln Memorial or the FDR Memorial.

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