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Brenna OBrien
Professor Wilson Clasby
English Composition II
1 November 2016
Thesis Statement: The design of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial creates a conflicting
national memory of Martin Luther King Jr. to the reality of his life works.
Annotated Bibliography
Austerlitz, Saul. A Leader, Not a Dictator. ARTnews, 2008, pp. 8484.
In this article, The Design of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, specifically
the statue of King, is under attack due to its uncanny resemblance to statues of
authoritarian leaders. This article was published in an art magazine, which gives it ethos
for critiquing the visual effect of the memorial. The author of the article, Saul Austerlitz
effectively gives an unbiased review of the memorials design, delivering the varying
viewpoints from external sources and never stating his opinion on the matter.
Austerlitz explains the difficult process it was to make this memorial a reality
considering the many modifications it had to undergo to gain approval. It was impossible
to please everyone when producing the statue of King. Austerlitz describes the many
complaints people expressed along the way, including the furrow of Kings brow which
was later lessened because he appeared too confrontational. The large structure of the
statue also raised concerns as it greatly resembled the statue of a dictator rather than the
beloved American hero he was. The fact that the Chinese sculptor, Yixin, had experience
in crafting Mao Zedong before taking on this project did not relax the tensions throughout
the memorials production.
Austerlitz explores the issues in having a foreigner create such an important
historical memorial. Some argued that American workers should have been utilized in
creating such an important historical figure. The opposing side suggested that King
would not discriminate against a foreign artist, but would judge him on his artistic
abilities rather than nationality.
Austerlitz overview of the controversies surrounding the Martin Luther King Jr
Memorial in an unbiased manner allows the reader to formulate their own conclusions on
the memorial. Although this article is relatively short for a scholarly source, it offers a
new, neutral perspective of the Kings memorial through an artistic lens. Additionally,
Austerlitz accounts on the criticisms of the memorials statue and creation help to
support my claim that King is being misrepresented through its poor design.

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Bruyneel, Kevin. The King's Body: The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and the Politics of
Collective Memory. History & Memory Journal. Spring/Summer2014, Vol. 26 Issue 1,
p75-108. 34p. 1 Mar. 2014.
In this essay by Kevin Bruyneel, the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr is analyzed
specifically through critiques of the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial. Bruyneel goes into
detail about how the true essence of King has been lost by the puppeteers of history, or
those with money, power and authority. This distorted national memory, enhanced by the
grandiose statue and stone of the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial, instills a faulty feeling
of accomplishment of Kings dream.
Not only does Bruyneel believe that this memorial has the power to shape the
legacy of King, but he also believes it stands as an indicator of where we are, and where
were heading on the road to Kings dream of racial equality. His first critique of Kings
representation stems further than the memorial itself, but within in our national memory
of him. Bruyneel claims King has been Santa-Claus-ifiedremembered solely as a
saintly pacifist preacher who wanted to share his dream. This one-dimensional version of
King was maintained in the memorial to keep funding from the politicians who wanted
no part in Kings potentially controversial, radical side.
Bruyneel goes on to suggest that the Due to the haloed version of MLK
supported by those in power and remembered in the memorial, an impression of the postracial relations era is enforced. The need to challenge racial injustices begins to diminish
as our national memory of MLKand in turn the Civil Rights Movementrenders it an
issue of the past. In fact, the lack of connection of the memorial to the Civil Rights
movement makes it take on a more universal meaning than one which represents
American struggles. Bruyneel points this out by discussing the controversies in the
selection of Chinese sculptor, Yixen, to create the statue of King.
This essay is brimming with information, specifically on the design of the Martin
Luther King Jr. Memorial, which will aid in my critique of the structure of the memorial.
Along with specifics on its arrangement, Bruyneel also introduces historical context,
present controversies, and visions of the future associated with the memorial. I will be
able to thoroughly support my claims using support from this scholarly source.
Kennicott, Philip. MLK Memorial Review: Stuck between the Conceptual and Literal.
Washington Post, The Washington Post, 26 Aug. 2011,
In this article, Kennicott examines the execution of the Martin Luther King Jr
Memorial. Kennicotts criticisms of the memorials structure are similar to Bruyneels.
Uniquely Kennicott discusses the battling forces of its conceptual and literal design
which fails to capture the entirety of the famous Civil Rights activists beliefs.

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Kennicott describes the memorial as ordinary, quainta feel good fiction of

King. He notes that the careful selection of Kings quotes from pre-1965, ensure that no
controversial statements about his political or economic views would be expressed. Even
excerpts from Kings most heated allegories in the I Have a Dream speech, which
touched upon political conflict and tribalism, were presented in a way which preserved
Kings national memory. Additionally, the juxtaposition of these quotes result in
contradicting messages. Kennicott blames this on the creators, stating that Kings
complex metaphors were never meant to be pinned down and analyzed without proper
context to support them.
Not only does Kennicott note the weaknesses in representing Kings words, but
also in the assembling of the memorial itself. Its theme of the Stone of Hope falls short
in both the contextual and literal meaning of the metaphor. Kennicott explains that King
represented the Stone of Hope breaking off the Mountain of Despair, but the concept
lost its validity as the addition of the statue of King forced the memorial to take on a
literal meaning. The larger than life statue of King resulted in confused proportions as
the stone was unusually large compared to the mountain it resided from. Similarly,
to the contradiction of literal to contextual meaning, the juxtaposition of Kings quotes
created conflicting messages.
This article, published by the reputable Washington Post, thoroughly reviews the
Martin Luther King Jr Memorial, placing great emphasis on its structural design.
Although this memorial falls short in both the literal and contextual form, Kennicott still
views it as a safe environment to remember an uplifting fiction of King. These points
considered, I will be able to explore and develop my argument that Kings message was
lost in the physical design of the memorial.
Margolin, Victor. The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial: A Flawed Concept. Journal of Visual
Culture, vol. 11, 2012, pp. 400408. doi:10.1177/1470412912458070.
This article was created by Victor Margolin, a former professor of Design History
for the University of Illinois. In this journal, Margolin explores the creation process of
the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial and how this changes the meaning behind it.
Margolin points out that in every art form, the relationship between the artist and
their piece adds meaning to their work. In the case of this memorial, the choice of
Chinese sculptor, Lei Yixin added a new dimension to the 30-foot statue of King.
Controversy quickly followed after announcing him as the sculptor because he was a
foreigner who held no immediate connection to King. According to Margolin, the
selection of an American sculptor, especially one of African American culture would have
created a powerful message along with the already meaningful statue of King. Yixen, on
the other hand, lacked an intimate relationship with King, making the memorial take on a
universal meaning rather than taking the direct linkage of Kings efforts towards the
American Civil Rights Movement.
Margolin goes on to address the physical structure of the statue of King. The size,
posture and attitude all resonate with the style of social realism. Margolin delves deeper
into the controversies behind a Chinese sculptor depicting King in the same social realist
style as most authoritarian leaders. He argues that had an African American sculpted this

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piece, it would be accepted by the public with more understanding, resulting in a more
meaningful recreation of King.
Although many other scholars discuss similar flaws in the memorials design,
Margolin does an effective job of analyzing the relationship between the memorial and
those involved in its creation. This is a unique perspective on the memorial and could be
very valuable in my argument over the validity of the memorials design.
Yanco, Jennifer J. Misremembering Dr. King: Revisiting the Legacy of Martin LutherKing Jr.
Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 2014,
In her book, Misremembering Dr. King, Jennifer Yanco eloquently challenges her
readers to remember the real Martin Luther King Jr. before he is lost in the generations to
come. The beginning chapters of the book focus primarily on Kings national memory,
which was especially helpful in my research.
Yancos first major claim is that the message of Martin Luther King Jr has already
faded from our collective consciousness. Yanco goes on to explain that we are only
exposed to the kind-hearted King whose happy dreams are broadcasted across the country
on Martin Luther King Day. The stubborn protester at anti-war rallies and the advocate
for radical economic equality has been nearly forgotten by his adoring public. Yanco
argues that this contorted national memory robs future generations of the power of Kings
teachings and tactics for social change.
Just as depressing, Yanco uncovers our false sense of accomplishment of Kings
dream. Delivering sharp statistics and social analysis, it becomes clear that those who are
content with the current political, racial and economic standings in America are viewing
the world through rose colored glasses. Yanco explains how Kings Giant Triplets, or
threats to society, have been growing exponentially over the past decade. Militarism,
materialism and racism have not even remotely disappeared from this country, and so
long as they remain, we must continue fighting Kings battle.
Through the written word, Yanco miraculously opens our eyes to the false sense
of security weve grown so comfortable to. This book talks about how the false
representation of King has resulted in the continuation of the social issues which King
fought so passionately for during the civil Rights Movement. All the ways Kings image
is being manipulated and distorted aid in my thesis that King is being misrepresented in
his own memorial.