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Changes made to Martin Luther King Memorial ahead of anniversary

A tourist takes a picture of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington February 22, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron
A tourist takes a picture of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington February 22, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

(Reuters) - A sculptor has removed a phrase from the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial that some said made the civil rights leader sound arrogant and the statue will be ready for observations of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the New York Times said.

Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin removed the inscription from the 30-foot statue and made the necessary repairs to the memorial, the Times said. The pale granite memorial of the civil rights leader was sculpted by Lei and unveiled in 2011.

Lei had paraphrased a King quote for an inscription on the monument - "I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness." Concerns arose that the quotation was out of context and made King sound egotistical.

The full quote, taken from a 1968 sermon delivered two months before King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, was: "Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter."

Thousands of people are expected to gather in Washington during the next two weeks to commemorate the peaceful March on Washington led by King and other civil rights leaders on August 28, 1968. After the march, King gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech calling for racial unity.

King was the youngest man to have received the Nobel Peace Prize and the leader of the U.S. civil rights movement in the 1950s and '60s.

(Reporting By Brendan O'Brien; Editing by Bill Trott)

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