Boston unveils new sculpture honoring Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King


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By Claretta Bellamy, NBC News

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. hugs his wife Coretta
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. hugs his wife Coretta during a news conference following the announcement that he had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Oct. 14, 1964. (Bettmann Archive)

Just a few years ago, the conceptual artist Hank Willis Thomas had no idea he would be instrumental in commemorating the lives of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King. But when his application was selected out of 125 artists and architects to design a new monument in Boston dedicated to the civil rights icons, he was shocked. 

“When I submitted the proposal, I didn’t even think that we really had a chance,” Thomas, 46, told NBC News. “By the time it was approved, I guess I’ve just been on autopilot like, OK — how do I just not get in the way of history? It really has been my mission over the past several years.”

Aiming to both inspire visitors and honor the Kings’ legacy, Thomas’ work will be revealed Friday at Boston Common, America’s oldest city park, in downtown Boston. The bronze structure, which is 20 feet long and 26 feet wide and titled “The Embrace,” depicts the arms, shoulders and hands of the Kings hugging after Martin received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, the moment immortalized in a famous photo. 

Those scheduled to attend the ceremony include the Kings’ son, Martin Luther King III — also a civil rights activist — and his 14-year-old daughter, Yolanda Renee King, who gave a speech on racial equality at the Lincoln Memorial in 2020.

Five years in the making, the monument represents the love, heart and spirit of the couple, Thomas said, while also highlighting the power of an iconic moment. 

Keep reading.

King is known for his role in the Civil Rights movement, but others are finally receiving recognition.

Find more stories about civil rights heroes in our breaking news section.

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