Angelou Says Paraphrased King Quote Is Misleading

Maya Angelou is a poet laureate, so she ought to know a little something about language.

And she made it clear that she doesn't like the language attributed to Martin Luther King that is inscribed in a slab of granite on the north face of the King memorial in Washington D.C. Not at all.

I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness, the inscription reads, taken from King's prophetic "Drum Major Instinct" sermon, which the civil rights leader delivered exactly two months before his assassination.

But Angelou points out that's not exactly what King said.

“The quote makes Dr. Martin Luther King look like an arrogant twit,” Angelou, 83, told the Washington Post Tuesday. “He was anything but that. He was far too profound a man for that four-letter word to apply."

The exact quote reads as follows:

“If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice,” King told the congregation at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Feb. 4, 1968. “Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.”

The "if you want to say" clause is key, Angelou argued. When told the quote had to be paraphrased for space reasons, Angelou's reply was equally economical: "Too bad."

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