MLK Memorial Timeline

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Milestones

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial began as an idea at a fraternity’s dining room table and took 27 years of fundraising, bureaucratic wrangling and construction to become a reality. The 30-foot sculpture of the Civil Rights leader, which stands beside the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C., will open to the public on Monday; a week of events will lead up to a formal dedication ceremony on Aug. 28.

Jan. 1984

Members of a Silver Spring chapter of King’s prestigious fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, conceive the idea of a memorial while meeting around a dining room table. Their proposal is presented at a meeting of the fraternity’s board of directors.

Nov. 1996

President Bill Clinton signs congressional authorization proposing creation of a memorial in Washington to honor King.

Dec. 1999

 

The National Capital Planning Commission approves a prime four-acre site for the memorial on the northwest shore of the Tidal Basin amid Washington’s famous cherry trees.

Sept. 2000

Roma Design Grp. of San Franciso

A design submitted by the ROMA design group, of San Francisco, is selected from nearly 1,000 entries as the best one for the memorial. It features a three-part sculpture that has evolved into the current three-piece configuration with a large, central statue of King

April 2002

The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts votes in favor of the preliminary design.

Dec. 2005

The National Capital Planning Commission votes in favor of the preliminary design.

April 2006

The National Capital Planning Commission grants approval to proceed with final design phase.

Nov. 2006

Thousands, including then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), attend the ceremonial groundbreaking at the memorial’s site.

Feb. 2007

A Chinese master sculptor, Lei Yixin, is chosen to create the three-story-tall centerpiece statute of King, which has been named the “Stone of Hope.”

May 2008

The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts objects that the planned sculpture is too “confrontational.”

A reworked design is approved a month later.

Aug. 2008

Preliminary site preparation begins.

Oct. 2009

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar signs construction permit, allowing work to proceed.

Aug. 2010

A cargo ship bearing the memorial’s 159 granite sculpture blocks arrives in Baltimore after a 47-day voyage from China, where the stone was quarried and carved.

Nov. 2010

The most recognizable piece of the new Martin Luther King Jr. monument–the head–was placed atop the statue of the civil rights leader, in between the National Mall and the Tidal Basin on Wednesday, November 24. (AJ Chavar/The Washington Post)

A giant construction crane lowers the iconic block depicting King’s head and shoulders into place atop the Stone of Hope.

April 2011

The memorial project foundation announces that dedication has been scheduled for Aug. 28 – the 48th anniversary of the day King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington.

June 2011

Stone carver Nick Benson is carving the inscriptions into the stone of the new Martin Luther King Jr. memorial under construction near the Tidal Basin. (Michael Ruane)

Rhode Island stone carver Nick Benson finishes carving King’s sayings on the memorial inscription walls.

July 2011

Officials unveil the lighting system that illuminates the memorial at night.

Aug. 2011

The White House announces that President Obama, the nation’s first African American chief executive, plans to speak at the memorial’s Aug. 28 dedication.

CREDIT: Michael E. Ruane — The Washington Post. Published Aug. 18, 2011.
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