“I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness,” reads one inscription on the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial in Washington, D.C. However, the quote has drawn criticism for not being a direct quote and instead being a paraphrase of King’s words.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said that the National Park Service has 30 days to change the quote.
The phrase in question was modified from King’s “Drum Major Instinct” sermon on Feb. 4, 1968, where King explained to a congregation in Atlanta how he would like to be remembered at his funeral. He was assassinated two months later.
The original quote was: “If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.”
Among the many quotes inscribed on the memorial, this one drew the ire of poet and author Maya Angelou, who said that the paraphrased inscription made King look like “an arrogant twit.”
However, Ed Jackson Jr., the executive architect of the project, went on record before as saying that King’s words were shortened for space reasons and that he stood by the paraphrased line. Jackson is now assessing the costs of changing the quote, but said that the original stone work will not be removed from the memorial.