MLK Jr. Memorial in Washington, DC

A National Memorial Honoring the Civil Rights Leader

MLK Statue
Steve Dunwell/Getty Images

The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial in Washington, DC honors Dr. King’s national and international contributions and vision for all to enjoy a life of freedom, opportunity, and justice. Congress passed a Joint Resolution in 1996 authorizing the construction of the Memorial and a foundation was created to "Build the Dream," raising the estimated $120 million required for the project. One of the most prestigious sites remaining on the National Mall was selected for the memorial for Martin Luther King, Jr., adjacent to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, between the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials. It is the first major memorial on the National Mall dedicated to an African-American, and to a non-president. The Memorial is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There is no fee to visit.

Location and Transportation

The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial is located on the northwest corner of the Tidal Basin at the intersection of West Basin Drive SW and Independence Avenue SW, Washington DC

Entrances to the Memorial site are located at Independence Avenue, SW, west of West Basin Drive; Independence Avenue, SW, at Daniel French Drive; Ohio Drive, SW, south of the Ericsson Statue; and Ohio Drive, SW, at West Basin Drive. Parking is extremely limited in the area, so the best way to get to the Memorial is by public transportation. The closest Metro stations are Smithsonian and Foggy Bottom. (approximately a one-mile walk). Limited parking is available on West Basin Drive, on Ohio Drive SW, and at the Tidal Basin parking lot along Maine Ave., SW. Handicap parking and bus loading zones are located on Home Front Drive SW, accessed from southbound 17th St. 

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Wall
Rachel Cooper

The Martin Luther King Statue and Memorial Design

The Memorial conveys three themes that were central throughout Dr. King’s life – democracy, justice, and hope. The centerpiece of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial is the “Stone of Hope”, a 30-foot statue of Dr. King, gazing into the horizon and concentrating on the future and hope for humanity. The sculpture was carved by Chinese artist Master Lei Yixin from 159 granite blocks that were assembled to appear as one singular piece. There is also a 450-foot inscription wall, made from granite panels, that is inscribed with 14 excerpts of King's sermons and public addresses to serve as living testaments of his vision of America. A wall of quotes spanning Dr. King’s long civil rights career represents Dr. King’s ideals of peace, democracy, justice, and love. The quotes were chosen by a Council of Historians, who was selected by Dr. Maya Angelou, Lerone Bennett, Dr. Clayborne Carson, Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Marianne Williamson and others. Landscape elements of the Memorial include American Elm trees, Yoshino Cherry Trees, Liriope plants, English yew, jasmine, and sumac.

Bookstore and Ranger Station

At the entrance to the Memorial, a bookstore and National Park Service ranger station include a gift shop, audiovisual displays, touch-screen kiosks and more.

Visiting Tips

  • Visit on a nice day so you can easily read the inscriptions and enjoy the views of the Tidal Basin or if you prefer to avoid crowds, visit at night as the memorial is open 24 hours. 
  • Attend a ranger-guided program and learn about the history and contributions of Martin Luther King, Jr. National Park Service rangers are on site to answer questions from 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. 
  • Be sure to allow time to walk along the Tidal Basin and take some time to walk around and check out some of the other Memorials in the area.

Visit the website for more information.

About Martin Luther King

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Baptist minister and social activist who became a notable figure during the U.S. civil rights movement. He played a pivotal role in ending the legal segregation of African-American citizens in the U.S., influencing the creation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. He was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968. King was born on January 15. His birthday is recognized as a national holiday each year on the Monday following that date.

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