The Landscape Architect’s Guide to

Washington, D.C.

The National Mall & Memorial Parks

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

Your Guide
Susan Spain, ASLA

The Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial, which is found on the northwest side of the Tidal Basin, is in direct line between the Thomas Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials, where its location accentuates King’s story in the history of our nation. Numerous elements of the memorial are based on King’s speeches. The gap in the Mountain of Despair, which symbolizes obstacles to justice, provides a view of the Stone of Hope, which is also lined up with the Jefferson Memorial. The gap provides the main entrance to the memorial. The very much larger-than-life statue of King in the 28-foot-tall Stone of Hope emerges as resolute and thoughtful as he gazes toward Jefferson.


The Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity proposed the construction of a memorial to Martin Luther King, Jr. following his assassination in 1968.

In 1986, King’s birthday was designated a national holiday, giving momentum to commemoration.

Construction for the memorial was authorized by Congress in 1996. A design competition for the new monument and its landscape was won by ROMA Design. The design-build project was completed in 2011.

The memorial was dedicated on August 28, 2011, the 48th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, but the public celebration was delayed until mid-October because of a hurricane. 

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