Drum Major for Misquotation
“There's a quote carved into the new Martin Luther King Jr. memorial on the National Mall: ‘I was a drum major for justice, peace, and righteousness.’
“Except, as poet Maya Angelou pointed out this week, it's not a quote. It's a concentrated paraphrase that takes a word here and there from a speech that begins with Dr. King saying that he didn't wanted to be lauded, but . . . ‘If you want to say that I was a drum major,’ he began, ‘say that I was a drum major for justice ...’
“Ms. Angelou, a consultant to the memorial, said the words as chiseled, ‘makes Dr. Martin Luther King look like an arrogant twit. . . . The 'if' clause that is left out is salient. Leaving it out changes the meaning completely.’
“The memorial’s chief architect told NPR that the quote was ‘a paraphrase of the original statement based on design constraints.’ Meaning, I suppose, ‘Hey, there’s only so much room on the wall.’”
—Scott Simon, National Public Radio, Sept. 3, 2011
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