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Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Being Built on National Mall

On Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday, NewsHour reports on the plans for a Washington memorial honoring the civil rights leader. Darryl Matthews, president of the group that originated the idea for the memorial, and Bonnie Fisher, a partner from the firm designing the memorial, discuss the plans.

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  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    The ceremony was held in November, and now organizers are hoping to move forward with a three-acre site that will include large sculptural elements, walls engraved with King's words, and areas for contemplation.

    All this began as an idea in 1984 from the national African-American fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha. Here to tell us more is Darryl Matthews, general president of the fraternity, and Bonnie Fisher, partner in the Roma Design Group, which won a competition to design the memorial.

    Mr. Matthews, why don't you first tell us more about your fraternity and how the idea for the memorial began?

  • DARRYL MATTHEWS, President, Alpha Phi Alpha:

    Sure. Alpha Phi Alpha is the first African-American fraternity founded in the United States. We were founded December 4, 1906, and primarily founded as a mechanism to help with the retention of African-American students.

    In 1905, our founders discovered that most of that class of students did not return for 1906. So moving fast forward, we say we develop leaders. And that's our mission statement. And we develop leaders, emphasize academic excellence, brotherhood, while providing service and advocacy for our communities. And, of course, Dr. Martin Luther King was one of our members.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Now, I read that, in 1984, some of the members of your fraternity were wondering why more African-Americans were not going to the National Mall feeling that their history was not represented there.

  • DARRYL MATTHEWS:

    Well, that perhaps was part of the discussion, but the major discussion was Dr. Martin Luther King needed to be honored in a fitting tribute for the work that he had done to heal the moral dilemma of America, for him to — that we had not as a nation appreciated this servant of God and all that he tried to do to make America live up to its promise.