Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Plaza
Groundbreaking for this memorial devoted to Dr. King took place September 10, 2010, as part of Southeast Community Day. The keynote speaker was his daughter and national president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Dr. Bernice A. King. Dedication of the completed plaza occurred May 17, 2014, with the unveiling of the final element, the bronze sculpture.
The park's concept is a graded path progressing from the entrance up to the reflective wall with a gentle descent toward the city, signifying how Dr. King made the way easier for all. The perimeter walkway forms a ring around the main path where shade trees and seating permit visitors time for reflection and contemplation of the quotes by Dr. King on the walls. The amphitheater-style setting is an outdoor church intended for renewal of the spirit.
The visual centerpiece of the memorial is the bas-relief on the wall, created by world renowned sculptor Ed Hamilton. Titled The Unfinished March, it remembers the many marches that Dr. King led. The intent is to inspire the community that the journey has not ended, to empower one to take their place in the march and to continue to pave the way for others. Front and center is Dr. King, the leader and visionary. Several other figures, unfinished in sculptural detail to allow one to imagine his or her own character follow,
representing the foot soldiers, the men, women and children, who stepped out to make Dr. King's dream a reality.
The plaza recognizes not only the life and contributions of Dr. King but also the countless Americans who struggled and sacrificed to achieve the vision he articulated so powerfully. This is a civic spaced with the power to connect, and the sculpture will tell inspiring stores about the achievements of Dr. King, about the nation's history and about the power of individuals to change its arc.
(Inscription under the image in the upper left) Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (January 15, 1929-April 4, 1968) was an American pastor, activist, humanitarian and leader best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using nonviolent civil disobedience based on his Christian belief. Martin Luther King Jr. Day was established as a federal holiday in 1986. Hundreds of streets in the United States have been renamed in his honor including a portion of 25th Street in Newport News as Martin L. King, Jr. Way. Likewise, numerous memorials have been created across the land to recognize is achievements.
(Inscription under the image in the lower left) Dr. King with his wife Coretta King and associates leading a freedom march.
(Inscription under the image in the upper center) The park was designed by Mahan Plylcial Landscape Architecture, Urban
Design & Planning. Approximate cost of the memorial plaza was $1 million.
(Inscription beside the image in the upper center) Dr. Bernice A. King speaks at the plaza's groundbreaking ceremony September 11, 2010. Over the years, several members of the King family have visited the city as part of events commemorating black heritage.
(Inscription below the image in the lower center) The Unfinished March-The simple but courageous act of walking, an iconic action of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, gave visible, undeniable presence to the demands that his nation honor its ideals of freedom, justice and opportunity for all citizens.
Stony the road we trod, Bitter the chastening rod, Felt in the days when hope unborn had died; Yet with a steady beat, Have not our weary feet, Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
From Lift Every Voice and Sing by James Weldon Johnson.