The new MLK Statue in Boston receives mixed reviews

On January 13, 2023, a new 38,000 pound bronze sculpture memorializing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King was unveiled to the Boston public. Artist Hank Willis Thomas, alongside the MASS Design Group, was chosen to design The Embrace in March 2019. The sculpture, which is the arms of the Kings’, is 20 feet tall by 40 feet wide and located in America’s first public park– Boston Common. Specifically, the memorial is inspired by a picture of the two hugging after Dr. King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. 

According to the official Embrace Boston website, the Freedom Rally Memorial Plaza was chosen to house this sculpture because it has a long history of holding civic gatherings. It is a site that honors a rally, led by Dr. King, in which over 22,000 protesters marched from the historical black community Roxbury to the Boston Common. The sculpture is intentionally located in a very public space in order to encourage conversation and education around Dr. King’s message of love, equality, and peace for all.

The mayor of boston, Mayor Michelle Wu, said that “The Embrace will be a revolutionary space in our country’s oldest public park for conversation, education, and reflection on the Kings’ impact in Boston and the ideals that continue to shape the fabric of our city…the recognition of Coretta Scott King shows that we are a city that will take on the full legacy of Kings and challenge injustice everywhere from a place of love.”

After the unveiling of the memorial, there was a lot of initial backlash and mixed reviews. Many people claimed that there is an inappropriate innuendo–arms look sexual from some angles. Seneca Scott, the cousin of Coretta Scott King, expressed that “art is powerful and the pen is mightier than the sword. I get all of that. But that does not bring people together. It was an atrocity.” He further claimed that the monument was a waste of $10 million dollars. 

Additionally, the statue also reopened controversies claiming that Boston has not done enough to redress its racist history. According to the New York Curbed, “here, and in many other instances, the figure and words of MLK Jr. are used to claim support for racial equality when there is no real commitment to policies that would make a measurable difference, like ending overpolicing in Black neighborhoods, closing the racial income gap, and reparations.” 

However, some people are also defending the sculpture since it honors Dr. King and his wife, who were both very important historical figures who fought for equal rights for black people. The son of Dr. King and Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King III, defends the memorial because he thinks art is subjective to individual opinions and that he was moved by the memorial.  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is a household name in the United States with a national holiday in his honor. Dr. King was a social activist who led the civil rights movement in the United States– fighting discrimination against African Americans– while practicing peaceful protest tactics. His wife, Coretta Scott King, was also a civil rights activist and a published author. The Kings met and fell in love in Boston in the 1950s when they were both attending universities in the area. Their legacy is memorized by the shape of the sculpture, as it encapsulates the relationship between the pair in a embracing of arms.


Image Source: NPR

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