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Monumental Controversy

by David Gura
May 19, 2008

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David Gura

On Saturday, I spent a warm afternoon on the National Mall, here in Washington, wandering between the Washington Monument and the Capitol, past the National Gallery and the Hirshhorn Museum.

It is a big, glorious expanse, which has changed in the last few decades. The Smithsonian built the National Museum of the American Indian for instance, right next to the United States Botanic Garden. And there are plans for new museums and memorials, to preserve African-American history, to remember Martin Luther King Jr.

Controversy has erupted around the design and construction of the King monument. Some say that the sculpture of the civil rights leader, designed by Chinese artist Lei Yixin, doesn't portray King as he was. He looks too severe, they say. Angry, even.

Ibram Rogers, writing at, says that the criticism is unwarranted. "Lei's design is not only an accurate depiction of the image we should see of King in our historical memory, it is a prescient depiction of how King would likely confront the country now."

What do you think of the design?

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