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Monday, January 16, 2023

Notations On Our World (Weekly Edition): On #MLK2023


It is Martin Luther King Day here in the United States Today.   We present the following to reflect upon this courtesy the team at Bloomberg:


Boston is celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday this year with the unveiling of a monument that adds a new dimension to the civil rights leader's legacy.

The Embrace, a massive bronze sculpture designed by artist Hank Willis Thomas, depicts King's hands clasping the arms of his wife, Coretta Scott King. The piece is a tribute to the couple, who met as students in the city in 1952.

Rising two stories tall and weighing 19 tons, The Embrace is based on a photograph of MLK and Coretta Scott King clutching one another at a news conference after he learned that he'd been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. 

The Embrace was unveiled at Boston Common on Friday.  Photographer: Lane Turner/Boston Globe

At a glance, The Embrace looks like the kind of mid-century modernist abstract sculptures found in public plazas across the US. But the message of the piece is intimate and unique. The sculpture celebrates notions of support, care and vulnerability that aren't usually associated with monumental depictions of heroic men. It marks a radical departure from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, DC, which shows the figure of the man, defiant, emerging from the face of a mountain.

The MLK Memorial statue in Washington, DC.  Photographer: Mark Wilson/Getty Images North America

The design, a collaboration between Thomas and Mass Design Group, was selected by the nonprofit Embrace Boston as part of a new plaza commemorating civil rights leaders for Boston Common. 

The Embrace expands on the idea of commemorating MLK by including Coretta Scott King, who was a leader in the nascent civil rights movement even before she met her husband. The new Boston monument also prefigures the idea that great figures rarely act alone but rather with powerful support networks.

"Love is such a powerful force," Coretta Scott King once said. "It's there for everyone to embrace — that kind of unconditional love for all of humankind."

— Kriston Capps

This MLK Day, revisit our stories on the legacy of King and the civil rights era.

More on US monuments from CityLab

Six monument-makers tasked with “telling stories that haven’t been heard” will bring temporary memorials to Washington, DC, in August. 

Artist Michelle Browder’s statues honor African-American women subjected to medical experimentation — and highlight racial health disparities that persist today.  

At the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, the pain and horror of racial violence assume physical form.

The Chicago Monuments Project is leading a city-wide dialogue in search of ways to resolve its landscape of problematic statues, and make room for a new, different kind of public memorial. 

It’s an interesting time to be an African-American city official with authority over whether racially controversial statues and monuments should remain standing.

What we’re reading

  • Coretta Scott King quietly blazed trails of her own before meeting her future husband in Boston (GBH News)
  • Q&A with "King: A Life" author Jonathan Wig on the civil rights leader’s year in Chicago (Chicago Tribune)
  • Allies, educators, seek a national park to celebrate Rosenwald Schools for Black children in the segregated South (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
  • The new ways teachers are talking about Martin Luther King Jr. (Time)

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