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Archive for Monday, June 10, 2002

Memorial honors leaders of civil rights struggles

June 10, 2002

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— Relatives of civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr., Fredrick Douglass and Sojourner Truth attended Sunday's unveiling of a $1.2 million memorial to honor the leaders.

The bronze, 26-foot-high pedestal by sculptor Ed Dwight puts a 9-foot-8-inch-high statue of King above life-sized bronzes of Truth, Douglass, Mohandas Gandhi and Rosa Parks against the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains.

"The mountains are symbolic of Martin Luther King Jr.'s struggle," said his son, Martin Luther King III.

"The beauty of this memorial is that it not only pays tribute to him, but to so many others," he said. "When you put them together it creates a wonderful opportunity for people to begin to know history and hopefully realize that all these individuals have given their lives in human service."

The statues stand in a circular plaza in Denver City Park. It is one of 60 monuments and memorials created by Dwight, a former Air Force pilot who attended school in Denver and completed a series of bronze sculptures depicting the contribution of blacks in the American West.

Funding for the statue was split evenly between the city park and private donations. The memorial was spearheaded by Mayor Wellington Webb and his wife, former state legislator Wilma Webb, who headed efforts in the 1980s to have Colorado declare Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday a state holiday.

"We've gone from being three-fifths human to having a man like Mayor Wellington Webb in the fourth year of his third term" in a city with a population that is only 12 percent black, said Rev. Billy Kyles, who was with King when he was assassinated April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn.

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