Workers have begun removing the controversial “drum major” inscription on the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, in preparation for the 50th anniversary next month of King’s famous march on Washington.
Crews directed by Chinese master sculptor Lei Yixin removed the phrase “I was a drum major for justice” on Monday afternoon and prepared to cut out the words “peace and righteousness” on Tuesday.
The inscription, “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness,” which appears on the memorial’s three-story statue of King, aroused controversy when critics voiced complaints that it made King sound arrogant.
It was a distilled version of a quote from a sermon King delivered two months before he was assassinated in 1968: “Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice,” King said, speaking to the congregation of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church. “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.”