Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Honoring More Than One

The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial is meant to be more than just a tribute to the civil rights leader. It was also designed to honor the civil rights movement in general. The street address of the memorial is 1964 Independence Avenue -- the street number is an homage to the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act of which King advocated for.

Along the upper walkway, they designed 24 niches to represent specific individuals, such as Medgar Evers and the four children murdered in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, who lost their lives during the civil rights movement. Thoughtfully, the memorial architects left these niches open to allow for future civil rights martyrs to be added and recognized at the memorial.

Designers planted more than 100 Cherry Blossom trees around the memorial, joining the hundreds more already growing around the Tidal Basin. Cherry Blossoms were selected since they bloom each year around the anniversary of King's death, April 4. These blooming annuals also serve as a remembrance of the promise of hope overcoming the darkness of oppression and injustice.

It seems that the designs of the newest national monuments and memorials on the National Mall are more inclusive, acknowledging a broader audience than just the singular individual being honored. For example, this memorial celebrates King and the civil rights movement, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial also honors Eleanor Roosevelt's contribution as a first lady and later as a United Nations diplomat and the World War II Memorial attempts to depict the wartime experience and sacrifice of all American WWII veterans. This trend demonstrates the positive shift in our perspective and willingness as Americans to view our history through a wider, more honest lens.

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