Boston – Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, together with the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture, the Boston Art Commission (BAC), and Embrace Boston, announced the unveiling of The Embrace and the 1965 Freedom Plaza by artist Hank Willis Thomas and MASS Design Group on the Boston Common on Jan. 13.
The unveiling ceremony included remarks from Wu, Thomas, Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey, members of the King Family, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, and performances by local artists. The new memorial, initiated by a partnership between the City of Boston and Embrace Boston, aims to honor the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, celebrate their history in Boston, and spark a public conversation on advancing racial and social justice in Boston today.
“The Embrace will be a revolutionary space in our country’s oldest public park for conversation, education, and reflection on the Kings’ impact in Boston and the ideals that continue to shape the fabric of our city,” said Wu. “The recognition of Coretta Scott King shows that we are a city that will take on the full legacy of Kings and challenge injustice everywhere from a place of love. As we continue our work to ensure Boston is a city for everyone, this memorial is a powerful call to embrace each other more, embrace our nation’s history and embrace what’s possible when we center community.”
The Embrace is a bronze figural abstraction based on a photo of an embrace between Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King after he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. The 20-foot-tall, 25-foot-wide artwork emphasizes the power of collective action, the role of women as leaders, and the forging of new bonds of solidarity out of mutual empathy and vulnerability. The Embrace is designed to give shape and prominence to Dr. King’s conception of agape love. It is also intended to reflect Coretta Scott King’s faith in the power of art, and her long life of struggle against militarism, poverty, discrimination, racism, and sexism.
The sculpture, which invites visitors to gather and enter into the Kings’ embrace, is a key component of an extensive vision led by Embrace Boston to create a living memorial and programs honoring the legacy of the Kings and ushering a climate of economic justice and racial equity in the city. It is situated within the 1965 Freedom Plaza, which includes a quotation attributed to Corretta Scott King and commemorates the legacy of local leaders of Greater Boston dedicated to working for civil rights and social justice. Told through Embrace Boston’s website and an audio experience app, their stories bring the memorial to life as an interactive public archive.
The memorial is located on the Boston Common, adjacent to the Parkman Bandstand, where Dr. King spoke in 1965. It will open fully to the public in February as a long-term fixture in Boston’s public art landscape.
“My parents’ time in Boston is often a forgotten part of their history – and the history of the movement they helped inspire,” said Martin Luther King, III. “The Embrace is a commemoration of their relationship and journey and represents the meaningful role Boston served in our history. This is more than just a sculpture, this historic monument is a symbol of the enduring power of love and beacon of hope for so many people across the globe see my parents life’s work as a calling to make this world a better place. I hope it will inspire the next generation of Martin Luther and Coretta Scott Kings as we continue the fight for peace, justice, and equity for all.”
“There are so many monuments that are memorials, but this is intended to really celebrate not only the Kings, but also their legacy and how their legacy plays out in our lives,” said artist Hank Willis Thomas. “I really wanted to make the work a call to action. A reminder that each of us has in us the capacity to be either of those two people or actually something inspired by and more influential. Through embracing another person our opportunities grow. I wanted to highlight the power and beauty of coming together with another person to manifest our shared goals. I am honored to be a part of the team that has built this centerpiece and gathering place in the historic city of Boston, and the location where the Kings met.”