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The Making of a Monument

The Making of a Monument showcases the tremendous process of the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee in conducting a nationwide search for an artist to design the MLK Monument Plaza in MLK Jr. Park.



A public-private partnership with the City of Buffalo

The City of Buffalo had already renamed Humboldt Park after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and in 1982 agreed to work in concert with leadership from Buffalo’s African-American community to commission and install a major work of public sculpture in the park.


The committee was made up of representatives from the City of Buffalo, trustees of the Martin Luther King Memorial Trust Fund, Martin Luther King, Jr. Park Steering Committee and chaired by Albert R. Howard. 

A national search was conducted

The initial committee secured the assistance of the Buffalo City Arts Commission, which agreed to have its Sub-Committee on Art Selection and Environmental Design work with the trustees of the MLK Jr. Trust Fund, to develop and issue a Request for Credentials which, was distributed nationally to attract accomplished artists to participate in a limited invitational competition.


Prof. Alfred D. Price of the University at Buffalo School of Architecture & Planning chaired the Arts Commission group that also included artists James Pappas and Walter Prochownik, architect Robert Hodge, and BAC Executive Director David H. More.


Nov 24, 1981

Three finalists were notified

The following individuals participated in the artist selection process:

From the MLK Jr. Trust Fund were Col. Cravane M. Givens, Ms. Ollie V. Scott, Ms. Sarah L. Lewis, and the

Hon. Clifford Bell.  From the City Arts Commission Sub-Committee were Alfred D. Price, Walter A. Prochownik, James Pappas, Robert Hodge and David H. More

Three finalists were selected for the competition:

Ms. Inge Hardison of New York, NY

Mr. Lloyd Lille of Newton, MA

Mr. John Wilson of Brookline, MA

March 10, 1982

Finalists were invited to present their work

The MLK Jr. Trust Fund agreed to provide a stipend to each artist, to bring them to Buffalo to see the site selected by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Park Steering Committee, and approved by the Buffalo Arts Commission; to make sketches and take photographs; and then to return to Buffalo on March 10, 1982, to present their work in the form of a maquette, a scale model, so that a selection decision could be made.


March 17, 1982

John Wilson was selected

The committee met each member, then submitted a blind ballot indicating a first, second and third choice.

It was then voted that John Wilson be given the commission to do the memorial tribute.

Results of this process were presented to the Buffalo Arts Commission by the MLK Jr. Trust Fund, and were subsequently approved unanimously by the Buffalo Arts Commission, the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency, the Buffalo Common Council, and by City of Buffalo James D. Mayor Griffin.

May - September 1983

Construction at the memorial site in MLK Jr. Park

Construction took place at MLK Jr. Park. The location of the memorial site is at Best Street and Fillmore Avenue.

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October 1, 1983

Official Unveiling of the MLK Jr. Tribute Plaza

On October 1, 1982, a grand celebration that began with an opening program at the Buffalo Museum of Science, followed by a ceremonial walk to the memorial site and the official unveiling of the 8' bronze bust designed by John Wilson. Luminaries included six international ambassadors — from the Republic of Guinea, the Republic of Djibouti, Zimbabwe, the Kingdom of Lesotho, Algeria and the Consul of Canada; the Honorary Swedish Counsul; several college presidents including the presidents of Morehouse and Voorhees; dignitaries such as the president of the Booker T. Washington Foundation; the Executive Director of the national NAACP; and a host of local, county, and state dignitaries

Construction Progress at MLK Jr. Park

Click on any photo below to learn more

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