A crowd of dignitaries and onlookers surrounds "The Embrace" sculpture on Boston Common on Jan. 13, 2023 as the piece commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. and local civil rights leaders was unveiled. Photo by Jeremiah Robinson | Boston Mayor's Office/handout

A massive monument to Martin Luther King Jr. was dedicated Friday in Boston, where the leader first met his wife, Coretta Scott King. In the early 1950s, he was a doctoral student in theology at Boston University and she was studying at the New England Conservatory of Music.

The $10 million, 20-foot-tall, 25-foot-wide sculpture called “The Embrace” consisting of four intertwined arms was inspired by a photo of the Kings embracing when King Jr. learned he had won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. It was designed by Hank Willis Thomas and MASS Design Group and was selected out of 126 proposals. It was financed by entrepreneur Paul English.

“They both loved this city because of its proud heritage as a hotbed of the abolitionist movement and its unique intellectual and educational resources,” their son, Martin Luther King III, said during the dedication. “And indeed, Boston became a place where they forged a partnership that would change America and make a powerful contribution to the Black freedom struggle. That’s what I see in this beautiful monument.”

Yolanda Renee King, who never met her grandparents, said she and everyone else are challenged to “carry forward” the couple’s “unfinished work.”

“This is the spirt we must keep as we commemorate [the King holiday],” the 14-year-old said, as those in attendance cheered. “Let’s make it a great day of community service; a day of brotherhood, a day of sisterhood; a day of using your platform for good; a day of love and healing in the spirt of this wonderful monument.”

Imari Paris Jeffries, executive director of EmbraceBoston, the organization behind the memorial, noted the significance of the sculpture’s placement at the Boston Common, America’s oldest public park and a high traffic area with millions of city residents and visitors walking its paths every year.

“I think Boston has this reputation of being this city of heroes and abolitionists, like W.E.B. Du Bois and Frederick Douglass, simultaneously with this reputation of not being friendly and in some cases being described as racist. So there’s this tension between these two images of Boston. Having the memorial there is part of our intention to transform our city’s perspective,” Jeffries said.

“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,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “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. As we continue our work to ensure Boston is a city for everyone, this memorial is a powerful call to embrace each other more, embrace our nation’s history and embrace what’s possible when we center community.”

Associated Press staff writer Mark Pratt contributed to this report.

‘The Embrace’ Unveiled on Boston Common

by The Associated Press time to read: 2 min
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