Georgia officials are finally unveiling a statue to Martin Luther King Jr., more than three years after state lawmakers first backed the project to honor the civil rights leader.
The 8-foot bronze statue of King will stand on the state Capitol grounds and gaze slightly toward the Atlanta boulevard that bears his name, according to sculptor Martin Dawe. Officials are expected to unveil the statue on Monday morning.
The project overcame a number of obstacles that delayed its advancement, including working with King’s family to obtain the rights of his image and commissioning an artist after the first person selected was killed in a motorcycle crash, according to The Associated Press.
Monday also marks the 54-year anniversary of King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington. In the oft-quoted speech, the activist publicly called for an end to racism nationwide.
Georgia’s memorial to King, however, will have some controversial company. The statue will stand on the Capitol grounds along with a number of Civil War-era or anti-civil rights icons, including a memorial to Confederate general, Ku Klux Klan leader, and former Georgia Gov. John Brown Gordon.
Public debate over Confederate-related monuments and icons has grown increasingly divisive of late, but officials set the date for the statue unveiling before the violence erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia, earlier this month. There, a planned rally centered around opposition to the potential removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, and triggered clashes between white nationalists, white supremacists, neo-Nazis and counterprotesters.
Proponents hope the statue of King, which will be visible to passersby, will positively add to public conversations on race and equality.
“The King statue will inspire and give hope to generations to come,” said state Rep. Calvin Smyre, according to WABE-FM.
Smyre, a Democrat and member of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus who helped raise money for the statue, added that Monday will be remembered, saying: “The day the statue memorializing [King] is unveiled will be a great day in the history of our state and nation.”