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Martin Luther King Jr. memorial opens in Washington, D.C.

August 22, 2011 | 10:19 am

A new memorial dedicated to slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is getting a sneak peak in Washington, D.C., before its official unveiling this weekend. It shows King emerging from a rock, powerful and pensive, echoing a line from his most famous speech.

That line -- "Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope" -- comes from his "I Have a Dream" speech.

A dedication ceremony is set for Sunday, the 48th anniversary of the address delivered during the March on Washington. President Obama is scheduled to speak at the dedication. But a lucky few are getting an early glimpse of the memorial beginning Monday. Visitors planning to be among the first to see the monument had formed a line at the site this morning, according to the Associated Press.

Photos: Martin Luther King Jr. memorial

The $120-million tribute has been in the works for more than a decade. Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin's overall concept for the sculpture also echoes that line from the "I have a dream" speech as well. Visitors must walk through the "Mountain of Despair" before they get to the 30-foot "Stone of Hope" and King's visage. Nearby granite walls are carved with King's eloquent words, and the plaza is dotted with cherry trees. 

The unveiling comes amid debate about building more memorials along the National Mall, with some saying enough is enough. The King Memorial is the only one on the mall that doesn't honor a president or commemorate a war.


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Photo: The "Stone of Hope" sculpture of Martin Luther King Jr. by artist Lei Yixin at a new memorial on the National Mall in Washington. Credit: Mandel Ngan / AFP /Getty Images