WASHINGTON (AP) — Organizers have set a new date in October to dedicate the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial after Hurricane Irene forced them to postpone the event in August, days before 250,000 people were expected to attend.
The memorial’s executive architect Ed Jackson Jr. told The Associated Press on Sunday it will now be dedicated Oct. 16 on the National Mall. A formal announcement is expected this week.
The dedication had been planned as the culmination of a week’s worth of events on Aug. 28, the 48th anniversary of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. But when Hurricane Irene swept through Washington with high winds and rain, organizers agreed to an indefinite postponement because of safety concerns.
President Barack Obama had been slated to speak in August and is now scheduled for the new date, Jackson said in an email. Memorial foundation President Harry Johnson had been emphatic that the first black U.S. president should take part.
Oct. 16 will be the 16th anniversary of the Million Man March on the National Mall. The 1995 march was organized to galvanize black men to improve their lives and let their voices be heard.
King, who was slain in 1968 in Memphis, Tenn., is the first person of color to be honored with a memorial on the mall. It is surrounded by memorials to presidents — Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
The King memorial features a 30-foot statue of the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize winner with a stern gaze and crossed arms. To each side of the statue is an inscription wall with 14 quotations from King’s speeches and writings throughout his life.
The postponed dedication was the latest in a series of delays and obstacles in the effort to honor King. The effort was started 27 years ago, and Congress authorized the memorial in 1996. Since then, there have been skirmishes over who would sculpt King’s likeness, where the granite would come from and who would control the mammoth $120 million fundraising effort.
Thousands have already visited the site, including some who turned out the day the dedication was originally scheduled, once rain from Irene had stopped falling.
“I feel like crying, but I don’t want to,” Jeffrey Tyler, a 16-year-old student at Cleveland’s Lincoln West High School, said when he saw the memorial on Aug. 28. “To see a black man up there, it made me feel really proud of myself.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)