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Honoring King in the Capitol


On Jan. 16, 1986, a bronze bust of Martin Luther King Jr. joined the somber, elegant circle of marble and bronze founding fathers in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.

At the time, very few artworks anywhere in the Capitol complex, let alone its central unifying space, depicted African-Americans. After a national competition, an NEA panel selected African-American sculptor John Wilson to create the portrait memorializing King’s contributions to 1960s-era civil and voting rights legislation.

Coretta Scott King served on the panel’s advisory committee; she unveiled the bust at the Rotunda ceremony, accompanied by the Kings’ four children.

Lauren Borchard, Director of Historical Programs, U.S. Capitol Historical Society

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