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Memorializing an American icon

The image of an arms-folded, determined Martin Luther King, Jr. carved into an imposing 30-foot stone reflects the promise of his teachings, and the moral imperative of his challenge for Americans to push ahead for a more just nation. Three people with ties to the University of Michigan contributed to the conception, design and construction of the newest national monument in Washington, D.C.

The $120-million monument, revealed to the public on August 23, depicts a resolute King gazing across the Tidal Basin and in the direction of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. A formal dedication will be held Oct. 16.

U-M alum Ed Jackson, Jr. (’93)  serves as the executive architect of the Foundation. Jackson is credited for providing both management and continuity of the design and construction processes from beginning to end. He is also president of ArchD Consulting Ltd.

Among those serving on the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, Inc. are James Chaffers and Jon Lockard. Chaffers is a professor emeritus at U-M’s A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture & Urban Planning, and Lockard is an adjunct senior lecturer, Department in U-M’s Afroamerican and African Studies.

The construction of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. joins the collection of larger-than-life tributes to Jefferson, Washington and Lincoln.

A formal dedication ceremony will be held Sunday, to coincide with the 48th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, where King delivered the indelible “I Have a Dream” speech. The curved granite walls of the monument include inscriptions of 14 inspirational quotes from King’s speeches.

Formal efforts to honor King with a memorial began in 1984; the site was approved in 1999.

A panel discussion, “Framing a Cultural Ideal,” will be held 6: 30 p.m. Oct. 28 at Penny Stamps Auditorium, Walgreen Drama Center, 1226 Murfin Avenue on U-M’s north campus.

Chaffers, Lockard and Jackson will discuss the challenges and opportunities in translating social, ethical, and visual ideals into architectural and landscape space. Other panelists include Luis Croquer, Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit;  Angela Dillard, U-M’s Residential College; and, Milton S. F. Curry (Moderator), Associate Dean and Associate Professor of Architecture.

Immediately following the panel discussion, Chaffers’ and Jackson will receive lifetime achievement awards from the A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture & Urban Panning.  The award cites the honorees for “…using their lifetime of work in the realms of academia and professional practice to enlarge upon the conversations begun by other African-Americans and Americans who were effective in translating the civil rights movement into a set of coherent intellectual ideals that continue to frame contemporary debates on race, culture, and social theory.”

The reception will be held at Street Gallery, 1st floor, Art & Architecture Building, 2000 Bonisteel Blvd. on U-M’s north campus.

For more information:

NPR MLK Monument story

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

PHOTO CREDIT: Upper right — Amy Ta, NPR