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Commemorative Landscapes of North Carolina
Commemorative Landscapes of North Carolina
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  • Monument Name

    Martin Luther King, Jr. Statue, Fayetteville

  • Type

    Statue

  • Subjects

    Historic Political Figures

    Historic Religious Figures

    Historic African American Figures

    African American Monuments

  • Creator

    Stephen H. Smith, Marshville, NC, Sculptor

  • City

    Fayetteville

  • County

    Cumberland

  • Description

    The eight and one-half feet tall statue depicts King with his right hand raised as if giving a speech. He is standing behind and reaching over a balustrade with a set of opened shackles at his feet. The statue stands on a two feet high platform made of brick and black granite with quotations from King’s speeches incised into the granite. This platform rests on a large oval patio of brick and concrete. Running in a larger oval towards the street are broad sidewalks. An area near the sidewalk is covered with memorial brick pavers.

    Several reviews noted the symbolism of the sculpture, i.e. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a master orator and thus shown speaking to the public. The balustrade in front of King represents the barrier of inequality but is curved to show him pushing against those inequalities. His arm reaching over and beyond the barrier symbolizes that equality can be possible. The balustrade’s simple design represents the times he was jailed for his beliefs and the sacrifices he made for the freedom of others. That sacrifice is exemplified in the baluster’s main support having broken the shackles of oppression.

    Images: Shackles | Far-off view | Close-up view | Landscape view | Center inscription | Left inscription | Right inscription | Right granite wall | Left granite wall

  • Inscription

    Center below sculpture: Dr. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. / JANUARY 15, 1929 – APRIL 4, 1968

    Left side below sculpture: "I HAVE A DREAM"

    On right below sculpture: “FREE AT LAST. FREE AT LAST. THANK GOD / ALMIGHTY, WE ARE FREE AT LAST.”

    Granite wall right outer inscription: “LET US NOT SEEK TO SATISFY OUR THIRST FOR FREEDOM BY / DRINKING FROM THE CUP OF BITTERNESS AND HATRED. WE / MUST FOREVER CONDUCT OUR STRUGGLE ON THE HIGH PLAIN / OF DIGNITY AND DISCIPLINE.” / “I HAVE A DREAM” AUGUST 28, 1963 / LINCOLN MEMORIAL, WASHINGTON, DC.

    Granite wall left outer inscription: “FOR WHEN PEOPLE GET CAUGHT UP WITH THAT WHICH IS / RIGHT AND THEY ARE WILLING TO SACRIFICE FOR IT, THERE IS / NO STOPPING POINT SHORT OF VICTORY.” / “I’VE BEEN TO THE MOUNTAINTOP” APRIL 3, 1968 / MASONIC TEMPLE, MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE

    Granite wall right inner inscription: “I BELIEVE THAT UNARMED TRUTH AND UNCONDITIONAL / LOVE WILL HAVE THE FINAL WORK IN REALITY.” / NOBEL PRIZE ACCEPTANCE SPEECH DECEMBER 10, 1964 / OSLO, NORWAY

    Granite wall left inner inscription: “INJUSTICE ANYWHERE IS A TREAT TO JUSTICE / EVERYWHERE.” / LETTER FROM BIRMINGHAM JAIL APRIL 16, 1963 / BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA

  • Custodian

    City of Fayetteville

  • Dedication Date

    January 15, 2007

  • Decade

    2000s

  • Geographic Coordinates

    35.064330 , -78.892010 View in Geobrowsemap pin

  • Supporting Sources

      Raleigh, Mary King. “Abstract Statue of King Shows Dishonor, Disrespect,” The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, NC), January 25, 2007

      Williams, Mable C. “Judge The Statue Yourself,” The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, NC), January 23, 2007

      Worthington, Don. “King Statue Unveiled,” The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, NC), January 16, 2007

      “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” Stephen H. Smith, Sculptor, stephenhsmith.com, (accessed December 10, 2015) Link

      “Stephen H. Smith, Sculptor,” StephenSmith.com, (accessed December 1, 2016) Link

  • Public Site

    Yes

  • Materials & Techniques

    Bronze, black granite, brick, concrete

  • Sponsors

    Fayetteville-Cumberland County Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Committee: Lula Crenshaw, Chairwoman

  • Monument Cost

    $350,000

  • Monument Dedication and Unveiling

    Attorney Jonathan Charleston was emcee for the dedication and unveiling before a crowd estimated at 1,500 people. A featured speaker was Lt. General Lloyd J. Austin the first African- American to command the 18th Airborne Corps headquartered at Ft. Bragg. Among those in attendance was 90 years old Catherine Leavy who recalled marching in Fayetteville civil rights demonstrations where she was spat on and had water thrown at her. Another in attendance, Mable Williams, noted that the audience was predominately black. During closing remarks Ronnie Mitchell who is white and a member of the King committee’s board of directors, addressed Williams’s criticism. He said “he prayed for a day when there would be an equal number of white and black faces at the park, a group that represented not a majority, but a unity.”

  • Subject Notes

    The sculptor Stephen H. Smith, a graduate of the University of North Carolina, also created the statue of Benjamin N. Duke that stands on a pedestal on Duke University's East Campus, First Flight Centennial Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, 65th General Hospital Memorial at Duke Hospital in Durham, and the James K. Polk statue in the rotunda of the Morehead Planetarium on the University of North Carolina campus.

  • Controversies

    Some in the African American community were upset the statue did not look enough like Martin Luther King, Jr. Its likeness was compared more to that of actor Danny Glover than King’s and there were some calls for its removal. The sculptor was white and one observer likened the shackles at the statues feet as more representative of keeping King “in his place” and him not being truly free than what the sculptor said was the intent.

  • Location

    The statue is located at 739 Blue Street in Fayetteville, NC, next to a proposed park site to honor Dr. King.

  • Landscape

    The memorial stands in a wooded area.

  • Post Dedication Use

    Candle light vigils are held annually on the eve of the Martin Luther King holiday.

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