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Carved into the memory

The Stone of Hope bears the likeness of Martin Luther King Jr.
The Stone of Hope bears the likeness of Martin Luther King Jr. (Marvin Joseph)
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Monday, January 17, 2011

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a day to honor the birth of one of the nation's most important leaders. He fought for equal rights for black Americans.

For today's kids, it might be hard to understand that just 50 or 60 years ago, in parts of this country blacks and whites couldn't go to the same schools, eat in the same restaurants or sit next to one another on a bus. After all, today we have a black man, Barack Obama, as president of the United States. Many historians agree that it was King's leading of peaceful protests that helped change much for blacks in this country.

Last Saturday would have been King's 82nd birthday, and today, especially since you don't have school, might be a good time to get a sneak peek at a big honor coming for King this summer. On Aug. 28, the 48th anniversary of his famous "I Have a Dream" speech on the Mall in Washington, a memorial to the civil rights leader, who was killed by an assassin in 1968, will be opened to the public.

You can already see some of the 30-foot-8-inch-tall granite sculpture of King by walking around the Tidal Basin. The sculpture, called "Stone of Hope," stands looking onto the basin, across from the Thomas Jefferson Memorial and next to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial. King's head, his upper body and the tops of his legs emerge from stone. Lei Yixin (pronounced "lay ee-shin"), a granite sculptor from China, designed it so that King is part of the stone.

The sculpture's name refers to a line in King's "I Have a Dream" speech. "With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope," King said. His statue is designed to look as if he were once a part of the "Mountain of Despair" but is now the "Stone of Hope."

The memorial eventually will include a bookstore, an information center, 185 cherry trees and lights for illumination at night.

- Moira E. McLaughlin


© 2011 The Washington Post Company

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