On the east side of Martin Luther King, Jr. Way, between South Walker and South Bayview Streets, you can find Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park, a four-and-a-half acre city park tucked into a green Seattle hillside. This tranquil parkland offers a natural sanctuary for reflection, and at its heart, the park features a dramatic, thirty-foot, black granite sculpture dedicated to civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., after whom the park is named. The sculpture, designed by Robert Kelly, was inspired by the civil rights leader’s “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, made the day before he was assassinated in 1968. Behind the sculpture and reflecting pond from which it ascends, visitors can also find a succession of bronze plaques that chronicle the life and work of Dr. King.
Today, Martin Luther King Jr. is a celebrated leader of the American Civil Rights Movement, although in his time he faced racial discrimination, physical violence, wrongful incarceration, and attempts on his life and the lives of his wife Coretta and their children. Dr. King was an American Baptist minister and it was this belief system that fueled his use of nonviolence and civil disobedience in fighting white supremacy. To this day, he is known for his many speeches and writings. Among the most famous are the “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered at the 1963 March on Washington, and the Letter from Birmingham Jail.
He was a founding member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an African American civil rights organization. Among the many demonstrations he helped to organize were the Montgomery bus boycott, the March on Washington, and the Selma to Montgomery marches. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
The park and its powerful centerpiece sculpture are reminders of Dr. King, his civil rights leadership, and his legacy. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park is also a reminder that black history is American history, and must always have a place in our community.