Tour the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

See how the memorial to civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. evokes his memory -- and honors his messages of justice, hope, love and democracy.
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Photo By: Allee Sangiolo

Photo By: Vanessa Mack

Photo By: Vanessa Mack

Photo By: Vanessa Mack

Photo By: Allee Sangiolo

Photo By: Vanessa Mack

Photo By: Vanessa Mack

Photo By: Vanessa Mack

Photo By: Vanessa Mack

Photo By: Vanessa Mack

Photo By: Vanessa Mack

The idea for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial came from King's Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity brothers. They first conceived of the idea in 1984; now their vision is a reality.

The entrance to the memorial is called the Mountain of Despair. It symbolizes the struggle for equal rights that King waged during his life, but then transitions into the open freedom of the plaza.

The Stone of Hope, which emerges out of the Mountain of Despair, bears King's image.

The 450-foot granite Inscription Wall features 14 notable quotes from King. They span his speech during the Montgomery bus boycotts from 1955 to 1956, to his last sermon delivered in Washington, DC, in 1968.

The Mountain of Despair and Stone of Hope got their names from King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech. A quote is featured on the stone itself.

The other side of the Stone of Hope features an inscription from King's "Drum Major" sermon; the quote was truncated by the memorial's builders, causing some controversy.

The Stone of Hope stands 30 feet above the plaza. The sculpture is made of 34 granite blocks, the heaviest of them weighing 55 tons.

Situated on a 4-acre site along the Tidal Basin, the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial is adjacent to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, and on a direct line between the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials. You can also get a great view of the Washington Monument.

The memorial's mission is to commemorate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as well as honor his contributions to world peace through non-violent social change. The memorial captures the essence of his message of the American Dream -- freedom, democracy and opportunity for all.

The memorial grounds include a bookstore that houses a donor wall and holds special events.

In 1998, President Bill Clinton signed a joint Congressional resolution authorizing the building of a memorial. It took an additional 13 years for the memorial to become a reality. The official dedication ceremony was postponed twice due to weather.

The Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation has raised $114 million of the $120 million needed for the memorial's construction and maintenance.

To celebrate King's birthday, a wreath will be laid at the foot of the Stone of Hope. In addition, the bookstore is hosting a children's art exhibit, a series of lectures and storytimes, and a scavenger hunt.