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(The Belle on location at the Martin Luther King Memorial)

Washington, D.C. — Martin Luther King Jr.’s monument on the Washington Mall will soon undergo a few alterations after critics ceaselessly complained that the truncated “drum major” quote changed the meaning and made the civil rights leader seem “like an arrogant twit,” says Maya Angelou.  

Legendary poet and activist Maya Angelou was the most prominent of the dissidents who previously said the truncated version made King sound like “an arrogant twit” because it was out of context.

The current inscription reads: “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.” The phrase is chiseled into one side of a massive block of granite that includes King’s likeness emerging from the stone. It became a point of controversy after the memorial opened in August 2011.

The phrase is modified from a sermon known as the “Drum Major Instinct,” in which the 39-year-old King explained to his Atlanta congregation how he would like to be remembered at his funeral. He made the February 1968 speech and was assassinated just two months later in Memphis, Tenn.

In the speech, King’ actually said “Yes, 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.”

However it was Ed Jackson Jr., the executive architect of the $120 million project, who said he still stands by his decision to alter King’s words that he says were shortened for space reasons.

“A few very carefully selected words will be added to the existing phrase; that will further amplify his statement about his role in America during the mid-20th century as a leader, a social advocate, a messenger, a voice of the people … for freedom, justice, hope and peace,” he said.

Harry Johnson, the president of the King Memorial Foundation, says the group will weigh its options on the best way to make the quote alterations back to the original words of King.

Angelou was named to the memorial’s Council of Historians tasked with selecting the inscriptions for the memorial. But she was not in attendance when the council convened to discuss the inscriptions, Jackson said. One spokesperson said, significant modifications to a completed memorial on the National Mall is not unprecedented.

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