Maya Angelou Says Memorial Quote "Minimizes Man"

Wednesday, Aug 31, 2011  |  Updated 10:53 AM EDT
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Remembering Martin Luther King Jr.'s Dream

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The statue of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is seen unveiled from scaffolding during the soft opening of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, Monday, Aug. 22, 2011. The memorial will be dedicated Sunday, Aug. 28. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

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A condensed version of words spoken by Martin Luther King has angered one of the nation's preeminent poets.

Maya Angelou says the paraphrased quotation, carved into the granite of the memorial's central monument, "minimizes" the words of the civil rights leader, the Washington Post reported.

From the Post:

“The quote makes Dr. Martin Luther King look like an arrogant twit,” Angelou, 83, said Tuesday. “He was anything but that. He was far too profound a man for that four-letter word to apply.

“He had no arrogance at all,” she said. “He had a humility that comes from deep inside. The ‘if’ clause that is left out is salient. Leaving it out changes the meaning completely.”

King said, ``Yes, 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.''

The words were from a sermon King delivered at Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church two months before he was assassinated about a eulogy for when he died.  The quote was paraphrased so that it would fit on the north side of the statue.

Maya Angelou worked under Martin Luther King when she served as coordinator with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
 

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