“A drum major for justice”: Martin Luther King Jr Day

Today the USA celebrates Martin Luther King Jr Day, a federal holiday to honour the man who helped change America (although not by as much as he would have liked).

The civil rights campaigner would have turned 83 yesterday, had he not been assassinated in April 1968.

The Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in Washington opened to the public some months ago and it has recently been announced that a controversial (mis)quote on one side of the monument is be corrected. The quote features prominently on the monument, as this picture shows:

The line currently reads: “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.”

King’s original words, from a 1968 sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, were:

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.

Poet Maya Angelou has said that leaving out the “if” changes the meaning and made the civil rights leader appear arrogant.

So what’s your favourite quote from King – what would you like to see replace the faulty “drum major” quote? Any advance on “I have a dream…“?

I am the Northern Ireland Programme Director of Amnesty International UK and an occasional human rights blogger at Amnesty Blogs: Belfast & Beyond.

I’m on Twitter at @PatrickCorrigan