When it comes to statues erected to honor individuals or symbolize historic moments from the past, there is no shortage of examples that have a contentious backstory to them. In the case of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C., the featured 30-foot high likeness of King is a prime example. Its sculptor, Lei Yixin, created and constructed the majority of the granite statue in China with non-union, unpaid laborers. A paraphrased quote from a King sermon two months before his assassination, “I was a drum major for justice, peace, and righteousness.” was initially featured on the monument but later removed after it was deemed to have been taken completely out of context and did not represent the message King was trying to convey at the time. To further add fuel to the fire, King’s family reportedly demanded and was paid $800,000 (U.S.) to allow the use of King’s words and his likeness.
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