Art Works Blog

Did you know...? (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. edition)

Martin Luther King, Jr., 1964. Photo by Dick DeMarsico for World Telegram

Did you know that the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) has more than three dozen portraits of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in its collection, including a 1970 collage by Robert Rauschenberg and several photographs by Benedict J. Fernandez? The museum's holdings also include Mountain Top, a 1968 screen print by Romare Bearden. According to the NPG website,

'[Mountain Top's] title and imagery are derived from a speech delivered by King in Memphis on April 3, 1968, the day before he was assassinated. King warned the crowd to anticipate "difficult days" and declared, "But it doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop [and] I've seen the promised land."'

Did you know that 2007 NEA National Heritage Fellow Nicholas Benson carved all of the text on the new Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial,  sited on the National Mall in Washington, DC? More than a dozen quotes by Dr. King appear on the memorial.

Did you know you can find a portrait of Dr. King at Westminster Abbey in London, England? Sculpted by Tim Crawley, the statue of Dr. King was installed in 1998 above the west entrance to the Abbey. After the western towers of the Abbey were restored in the mid-1990s, four sculptors were commissioned to create statues of modern martyrs to fill the empty niches.

Did you know that Dr. King has twice been portrayed on film by his son Dexter? Dexter Scott King has appeared as his father in Our Friend, Martin, an animated biography, and in 2002's The Rosa Parks Story. Other actors who have portrayed Martin Luther King, Jr. on film include James Earl Jones, Jeffrey Wright, and LeVar Burton.

Did you know that there's a play about Dr. King on Broadway right now? The Mountaintop by Katori Hall reimagines April 3 1968, the night before King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. The play stars Angela Basset and Samuel L. Jackson, who was actually one of the ushers at Dr. King's funeral. In an interview with the New York Post, Jackson commented on his latest role: "I heard his speeches all my life....It was a great challenge to say, ‘OK, I’ve got to humanize somebody everybody’s got on a pedestal.'"

Do you have a favorite artwork that was inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr.? Leave us a comment and let us know.


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