“Maya Angelou says King memorial inscription makes him look ‘arrogant’”

The side of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is emblazoned with this quote: “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.” But that’s not what King said; it’s a paraphrased version of this longer quote:

“If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.”

Poet Maya Angelou, who was a consultant on the memorial design, has now taken issue with this paraphrased version. What’s your take — is the the quote fine as it is?

“The quote makes Dr. Martin Luther King look like an arrogant twit,” Angelou, 83, said Tuesday. “He was anything but that. He was far too profound a man for that four-letter word to apply.

“He had no arrogance at all,” she said. “He had a humility that comes from deep inside. The ‘if’ clause that is left out is salient. Leaving it out changes the meaning completely.”


  • Anonymous

    Leaving out the “if clause” is our way of responding to his proposal.  We are saying he was those things and having it placed in stone makes it permanent.  Through this inscription we are giving Rev.Dr. King, in some small measure, his due.

  • Jill

    I think if you’re going to put something on a monument that will last for generations to come, you shouldn’t paraphrase the honored one’s words.  Period.  Paraphrases have their place, but monuments are not one of them.