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The Embrace: Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.

Updated: Apr 29, 2023

Zeina Hachem, Staff Writer

‘The Embrace’ sculpture in Boston Common. Photo//John Tlumacki/Boston Globe via Getty Images


Martin Luther King Jr. Day became a national holiday in 1986. On Friday, January 13th, the city of Boston, Massachusetts celebrated in a different way to commemorate his life: they unveiled the statue, The Embrace.


The large, bronze statue sits in Boston Common Park, known for its reputation as the first and oldest city park in the United States. Its history held many civic gatherings, creating the perfect place for this project to attract the public. For instance, here Dr. King gave a speech that called the city of Boston to “be a testing ground for the ideal of freedom” (King, Martin Luther, Jr).


Embrace Boston is a non-profit organization that inspires social justice values within the city. The organization wanted to have a permanent monument in the Boston Common Park to honor and represent the efforts of Dr. King.


The artist Hank Willis Thomas, in partnership with the MASS Design Group, was chosen out of 126 submissions for this project. Thomas decided to create something that would bring honor and remembrance to Dr. King’s message. It was extremely important to bring King’s legacy to the forefront for public viewing. He wanted to focus on the “collective action inspired by love.” With that, Thomas created The Embrace.


The monument represents a significant photo that honors Dr. King and his wife, Coretta Scott King. The piece demonstrates the hug that the two shared together after King received his Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. It was awarded to him for “his non-violent struggle for civil rights for the Afro-American population.” In the photo, it can be seen that Coretta held King’s weight up in their embrace. To Thomas, this was incredibly symbolic.


The picture that inspired The Embrace. Photo//Bettmann Archive


Thomas wanted to share this love and partnership with the public, leading him to create the 20-foot monument of the arms of King and Coretta. The work is also surrounded by the names of 64 civil rights leaders from the city of Boston who were active between the 1950s-1970s.


This monument stands as a reminder of the ideals Dr. King had fought for so strongly that were not done alone. Rather, they were done with unity and can only be upheld through love, equity, and justice within our community.


To learn more about this project, visit www.embraceboston.org.

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