Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Maya Angelou Says that the King Memorial Quote Makes MLK Look Like an “Arrogant Twit”

maya angelou, martin luther king memorial

Your Black World reports

Poet Maya Angelou had some strong words about the memorial for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  On the memorial, one of Dr. King’s quotes is paraphrased, and Angelou has protested, stating that the quote makes Dr. King look like an “arrogant twit.”  Angelou says that the quote was taken out of context and should never have been selected.

The words came from a sermon delivered by Dr. King on February 4, 1968 at Ebenezer Baptist church, just two months before he was assassinated.  He was referencing the eulogy that could be delivered after his death.  In the quote, Dr. 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. And all of the other shallow things will not matter."

The shorter version of the quote says that King said "I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness."

The phrase is on a statue of Dr. King, separate from 14 other quotes that are part of the memorial plaza.  The phrase "minimizes the man," according to Angelou. "It makes him seem less than the humanitarian he was. ... It makes him seem an egotist."

Angelou said that the quote does not reflect the humility that Dr. King embodied inside. 

The planners for the memorial say that they like the quote, and that it had to be shortened because the sculptor, Lei Yixin, said that there would not be enough room.

"We sincerely felt passionate that the man's own eulogy should be expressed on the stone," said Ed Jackson Jr., executive architect of the memorial. "We said the least we could do was define who he was based on his perception of himself: 'I was a drum major for this, this and this.'"


Nana said...

That is Maya Angelou's opinion. I don't agree with her. I think the quote is fine. Since she will be memorialized in some way one day, I suggest that she write her own quotes to be used now.

Sam said...

Thanks, Doctor Angelou ... If He wasn't thought of as an arrogant twit, he certainly will be now - thanks to you. Why can't you people from the cause just sit down and stop your over analysis of every little thing. All our people had to go through to get this memorial, now someone from that era and that struggle lends a sideline view. I never met Dr. King, but I have spoken with people who have ... I became sensitive to history after my tour in the military and I became familiar with the man through college study, sitting at the feet of those, who had the privilege to actually meet the man. And it was through these encounters that Dr. King's dream became my dream and his inspiration became my inspiration. Please Dr. Angelou this is not the time to throw you vast knowledge around, because you are only going to impede those who are realizing Dr. King's dream today with out the privileged of Dr. King or any other black person willing to give what he gave. So please stop with your over analyzation. We post dreamers don't need it!.

Anonymous said...

That's an astute observation!

pneuma65 said...

I was there on Sat. in the rain and on Sun. a dry day with lots of visitors at the monument. I read the quote and did not feel that it was arrogant at all. I liked many other quotes along the wall, especially one that relates to the controversy of today's political climate.

Anonymous said...

It wasn't a bad quote, it just wasn't one of the better quotes he made. "Drum major for justice" was taken out of context for this tribute, and I have to say I agree with Angelou, though "arrogant twit" is taking it a bit far. Maya Angelou was there with Dr. King, he had called her only days before he was killed, which also happened to be on her 40th birthday. They could have done better, but I don't think it makes him look like an "arrogant twit." They just could have done better than that.

WizardG said...

Maya Angelou should understand what the quote illustrates better than those who don't have a clue about many issues concerning African-Americans "blacks" and our state of affairs. So to some of those with a better world view and a higher state of African-American or "black" consciousness it will be a slap in the face. To others it will just be some words that seem ok.

Dorothy said...

I also do not agree with Maya. People will and have distorted Dr. King based on their opinion of civil rights not based on who he was. Dr.King was not arrogant and no quote can make him so. Truth crushed to earth will rise again, in that am I confident.

charles said...

Just wondering if either of my favorite quotes of Dr. MLK Jr. were included on the monument.

"In my talks with Black ministers, I inform them that you can't preach the glories of Heaven while ignoring social conditions in your own community that causes men to live an earthly hell."

There are millions of negroes devoid of pride and self respect, and they will accept injustice. Then you have other negroes that are comfortable and complacent, and they consider themselves above the struggle."

How true! Some forty plus years after the assassinations of MLK and Bro. Malcolm X.

Dover D. said...

Maya, You should choose your words carefully. Dr. King did not add any quotes to his monument. Don't associate someone's error to Dr. King.

Would you like to be associated to a bird in a cage?