Since it’s unveiling earlier this week, the new memorial honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mrs. Coretta Scott King, “The Embrace”, has received mixed reviews. Some thought it looked… pornographic. (Due to the angles of some of the pictures released online.) While others just didn’t understand it. I’m not gonna lie, when I first saw the sculpture I was confused as well. But, I decided to do a little more research and now understand the meaning behind the memorial and really like it. So, if you are looking for a little more insight (and want to see a better picture of the statue) keep reading.
Hank Willis Thomas was selected out of 125 artist and architects to design the memorial which sits in Boston Common, the country’s oldest city park. Why Boston? Many might not know this but Boston is where Dr. Martin Luther King first met his future wife, Coretta Scott King. It is also where Dr. King earned his Ph.D. in theology from Boston University in 1955. The memorial sits in the same spot where Dr. King led a rally of 22,000 people from Roxbury, a predominantly Black neighborhood in Boston, to the Boston Common to protest the segregation of schools in 1965.
The bronze sculpture is 20 feet long, 26 feet wide, weighs 19 tons, took about 5 years to develop, and cost about $10 million. It also features the names of 65 local civil rights leaders. It is Thomas’ artistic depiction of the infamous picture of Dr. and Mrs. King as they embraced each other after he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. Thus, giving us the title of the memorial…“The Embrace”. According to Thomas, “In that picture, you can see the weight of him on her shoulders as they embrace, and I realized that this was really a metaphor for his legacy. That she carried his legacy on her shoulders for several decades after he was assassinated.”
Martin Luther King, III, the couple’s son, approved the statue prior to its unveiling, which took place on MLK Day (Monday, January 16, 2023). He attended the ceremony and said, “It is a great honor to be a part of this unveiling ceremony for the memorial, which truly signifies the bond of love shared by my parents.”
Thomas is not new to the world of art. He currently has 13 sculptures on display across the nation including “Unity” in Brooklyn, New York, “Raise Up” in Montgomery, Alabama, and “History of the Conquest” in New Orleans, Louisiana.
What do you think about “The Embrace”? Head on over to my IG page @heymsjessica and share your thoughts.