A new tribute for civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King, is being unveiled Friday in Boston. TODAY’s Craig Melvin spoke with the artist and members of the King family about the new memorial that highlights their love that was sparked right her in the city.
"The Embrace" sculpture was inspired by a photo of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King after he had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
"When they met here they were people full of dreams, full of ambition and full of hope," said Hank Willis Thomas, the artist who designed the sculpture in collaboration with MASS Design Group. "They chose to actually commit those dreams to one other and to society, and that day was like proof that it was all worth it."
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King and Scott were students in Boston when they met on a blind date in 1951. They soon became inseparable and sarted their journey together toward a cause larger than themselves.
For the sculpture, Thomas stripped away everything but the embrace itself.
"Not everyone has arms and hands, right? But all of us have been embraced," he said. "All of us know what it's like to feel embraced."
The sculpture is made up of more than 600 pieces of bronze, welded together at a foundry in Washington state, shipped across the country in pieces and reassembled. It is located at the Boston Common on a plaza of diamond-shaped pieces of granite designed to honor the African American quilt-making tradition. All around it are plaques featuring the names of Boston civil rights heroes.
"Oh, I cried like a baby," King Boston Executive Director Imari Paris Jeffries said of his first time seeing the memorial.
The hope is the memorial might help change Boston's long and complicated relationship with race.
Martin Luther King III and his wife Arndrea Waters King will be among those at Friday's unveiling.
"I thought, this is a powerful image," King III said of the sculpture. "Sometimes we are afraid to embrace. But for Dad and Mom to show us what embracing is, to have a manifestation of what they consistently did, it's that it really is about the manifestation of love. Dad had obviously a love for his wife and his family, but he had a love for humanity, and so did Mom."
The TODAY show contributed to this report.