The Embrace Boston sculpture on Boston Common, dedicated last Friday, is a triple gift to Boston. First, there’s the memorable artwork, which is based on a photo of Dr. Martin Luther King embracing his wife, Coretta Scott King, then there’s the plaza with 69 plaques honoring Boston civil rights leaders active between 1950-1975. Finally, in the works is a Roxbury-based policy institute that will address issues of today and tomorrow.
The site of the memorial was carefully chosen. It sits not far from the Parkman Bandstand on Boston Common. In April 1965, Dr. King led a march of 20,000 people from Roxbury’s Carter Playground to the Common, where he and others spoke from the Bandstand.
It was the first march that he had led outside of the South. After he spoke, he and a delegation of community leaders met with then Boston Mayor John Collins to discuss pressing local issues of run-down housing, discrimination, and poor schools. The day before he had addressed a joint session of the Massachusetts Legislature, the first lawmaking body that ever had invited him to speak.
The Kings met in Boston on a blind date while he was studying at Boston University School of Theology and she at the New England Conservatory. Rev. King also assisted on the ministerial staff of Twelfth Baptist Church in Roxbury.
Coretta was instrumental in persuading her husband to publicly oppose the Vietnam War in 1967 — not a popular stand then. After his assassination, she carried on much work on his issues, including the passage of the law creating the Martin Luther King holiday that had been opposed by many conservative members of Congress and President Ronald Reagan.
As to the 69 plaques on the plaza, you can see the names and read about their contributions to the civil rights movement locally at embraceboston.org/heroes.
Lew Finfer is a Dorchester resident.