This impressive memorial statue is located in West Potomac Park, just southwest of the National mall. It's relatively new, having been opened to the public on August 22, 2011, as the 395th unit in the National Park Service. It covers four acres, and is comprised of several elements in addition to the sculpture in the photo. It was conceived over a period of more than 20 years. The memorial was proposed by Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, of which King was a member while attending Boston University. Even as early as 1968, the fraternity proposed a monument to him in DC. In 1996 the Congress authorized the Secretary of the interior to move forward with the memorial, but the organization had until November, 2003 to raise $100 million to pay for the project. A foundation was established and the site was approved in 1999. The monument was designed by ROMA Design Group of San Francisco, which was selected from 900 applicants from 52 countries. The relief sculpture seen here is based on a line from the famous "I Have a Dream" speech, which reads: "Out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope," and is thus named the Stone of Hope, standing between two other large pieces of granite. There was some criticism over the choice to have much of the material was Chinese in origin, as well as the use of white granite to depict a black man. Many advocated the use of American granite for the national monument. As in the case of the actual figure, controversy over various aspects of this monument is seemingly never far away.
Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of the most iconic and controversial figures in US history. He was a clergyman, activist and leader in the tumultuous Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. He was the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, awarded for his work to end segregation and discrimination in the US via nonviolent means (which didn't always work out) and was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977. He later became a vocal critic of the Vietnam War. He was assassinated on April 4, 1968, which is ironic considering that he championed nonviolent resistance, also advocated by Gandhi, who was also shot to death. The sculpture was intended to convey the message that his work, as this work, is yet unfinished.