The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial: 15 years and 195-plus tons of stone

The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, DCJanuary 15 is the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  In the United States, we commemorate his birthday as a federal holiday, recognizing his role as a chief spokesman for nonviolent activism in the civil rights movement.  In the summer/autumn of 2011, I visited the Maryland-Virginia-Washington DC area with my family to catch up with some old friends.  I used to live down there some time ago, and visited the National Mall a handful of times.  But when I lived there, the Martin Luther King Memorial had not yet been created.  I was fortunate to see it on my latest trip.  A foundation for its creation was started in 1996, and the memorial was unveiled on August 22, 2011.  We visited just six weeks after it was unveiled.

As you walk around the memorial, it’s pretty awe-inspiring.  The design itself was conceived from a line of his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.  In that speech, Dr. King says, “Out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”  And the design certainly reflects that.  In a sweeping arc around the memorial is a stone inscription wall, complete with fourteen passages from several of Dr. King’s orations.  The arcing wall, itself, is an homage to one of Dr. King’s quotes: “We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

side view of the MLK memorial in Washington, DC

It’s a pretty fascinating memorial, when you start to uncover some of the design elements and planning that went into it.  As a civil engineer, I found myself walking around the area, muttering to myself out loud (but somewhat under my breath), “How much stone is here?!  How long is that wall?!”  So, I did some investigating.

Enjoy this ‘remote’ view of the memorial by perusing some of my pictures here, as well as viewing some of the galleries from the list of sources at the bottom of this post.  I took to Mathcad Prime to help me with some of the questions and numbers racing through my head.  By way of comparison (and to give these numbers a sense of scale), I use some commonly known entities for conversion, to put things into perspective.

MLK memorial, by the numbers (via Mathcad Prime)

Fact/statistic sources and additional images:

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