The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is situated on a four-acre site along the Tidal Basin, adjacent to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial and sharing a direct line of sight between the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials. The centerpiece of the memorial is a 30-foot statue of Dr. King. His likeness is carved into the Stone of Hope, which emerges powerfully from two large boulders. The two boulders represent the Mountain of Despair, and are split in half to give way to the Stone of Hope. Together they represent soul-stirring words from Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Text from this speech is cut sharply into the rock of the Stone of Hope. According to the National Park Service, the memorial has had more than 5 million visitors since it opened to the public in 2011.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the most prominent leaders of the African-American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, becoming an icon through his incredible speeches and his use of nonviolent resistance. He led the famous March on Washington in 1963, where he gave his legendary “I Have a Dream” speech. The Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, of which Dr. King was a member, led the efforts for a memorial to be built in Dr. King’s honor. In 1996, Congress authorized the memorial, and the Washington, D.C. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation was founded in 1998 to raise money for construction. By 1999, a location had been established. In 2000, ROMA Design Group’s design was selected out of 900 candidates. A ceremonial groundbreaking was held in 2006 and construction was under way by December 2009. The memorial opened to the public on August 22, 2011.
The memorial is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There is no fee to visit. Park rangers are on site to answer questions from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. daily. Interpretive programs are provided every hour on the hour from 10 a.m. until 11 p.m.
The most convenient way to reach the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is by Metrobus or Metro. If traveling by bus, use the 32, 34 or 36 Metrobus routes. The closest Metro stop is Smithsonian, on the Orange and Blue lines. Visitor parking is available along Ohio Drive, with limited handicapped parking near the memorial itself. Street parking is very scarce nearby.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is in very close proximity to the other memorials surrounding the Tidal Basin, including the World War II Memorial, the FDR Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial. It is within walking distance of the National Mall, which includes landmarks such as the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Reflecting Pool. The White House is also nearby. The Southwest Waterfront, one of DC’s most popular areas, is also nearby.
- Celebrities including George Lucas and Carlos Santana donated money to help fund the memorial.
- Upon its opening in 2011, the MLK Memorial was the country’s 395th national park.
- It is the first memorial in DC built in honor of a person of color.
- The sculpture of Dr. King is 30 feet tall and made of granite.
- The total cost of building the memorial was $120 million.