Building Blocks of MLK Jr. Memorial Made in China

Construction under way on the National Mall for King tribute

By Nancy Norman
|  Monday, Jan 18, 2010  |  Updated 6:34 AM EDT
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Building Blocks of MLK Jr. Memorial Made in China

Time & Life Pictures/Getty Image

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After 13 years of fundraising and fighting between federal agencies, construction is finally under way for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall.

The project is in its incipient stage here. But far away Chinese artist Lei Yixin is putting the final touches on the statue of King and the "Stone of Hope."

It seems that Lei Yixin was chosen to sculpt Dr. King in 2007.  Chinese granite is also being used, cited as perhaps being of better quality than American granite. This is all very perplexing.  But since made-in-China American flags have been used in the memorial services of those that have paid the ultimate price in Iraq and Afghanistan, perhaps this is not such a surprise.

But that aside, visualize a towering statue of Martin Luther King Jr. with his stirring words engraved in granite. It is an awesome visual image going into the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. Four acres of land are being prepared. Trees are transplanted  to other parts of the Mall. 

The Washington Post reports that executive architect Ed Jackson Jr. said, "Everyone in the office is taking a deep breath. Although it's been a labor of love, it's been a long road."

It will take seven months to drive 300 concrete piles into the ground to support the memorial plaza and statue of Dr. King. Along with the towering statue, three themes will be featured: justice, democracy and hope. Twenty-four niches will honor the contributions of those who gave their lives in the civil rights movement. More than 200 cherry trees will adorn the area. To date $108 million has been raised of the needed $120 million.

In February, heavy-duty equipment will roll out to make way for the only memorial on the National Mall to honor a black man.

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