What is the real story behind the removal of the MLK, Jr. bust from downtown?

A city of Greensboro spokesperson said the Martin Luther King, Jr. bust was being removed from its central location for refurbishment because cars keep bumping into it. But that seems unlikely and, with another memorial set to replace it in the same location, nonsensical. Plans to move the bust were initiated by Downtown Greensboro Incorporated. How did those plans to move the bust across the street evolve to moving the bust out of the downtown business district?

GREENSBORO, NC — The City of Greensboro issued a press release (dutifully regurgitated by local “news” organizations) that announced the landmark bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. was being removed from its downtown location at the corner of Elm Street and Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive for restoration. Once completed, the press release said, the bust would be moved from its central location to one “closer to its original location” as if that was some kind of explanation of the motives for moving it out of the central business district altogether.

Previous location of the MLK, Jr. bust, where a city spokesperson says it was being bumped into by cars. (Click to enlarge.)

The News & Record reported a city spokesperson as saying the bust had been damaged by “vandals and cars bumping into it.” If cars are bumping into it, that might be a good reason to move it. But are they? The location of the bust, on a marble pedestal, yards from the street and a parking lot, with curbs, sidewalks, railroad ties, light poles, trees and landscaping in between make that claim seem suspect.

The impetus for the move, made without any public discussion or input, can be found in the minutes of the meetings of Downtown Greensboro Incorporated (DGI). Since January of this year, DGI president Zack Matheny has been pushing to have the statue refurbished and moved just across the street and with better lighting. Matheny even applied for, and received, a $15,000 grant from Lincoln Financial to pay for it all.

A.    Lincoln Financial Grants – Mr. Matheny indicated that in addition to the $20,000 residential feasibility study grant, DGI has applied for the Cornerstone Art Project Grant from Lincoln Financial Group. The funds from this grant would be used to bronze coat and move the MLK Bust, currently at the intersection of Elm and MLK, to a median area including lighting to attract attention and visitors to Southend area.  — Downtown Greensboro Incorporated board meeting minutes, Jan. 2017

The minutes show discussion of moving the bust to “the median” and adding lighting. There is a median on the opposite side of the street, where other monuments reside. Presumably, this was the intended location. How that plan got perverted into a plan to move the bust out of the downtown business district and to the south side outskirts is something the city should explain, and with more honesty than the explanation that the bust was damaged because cars were bumping into it.

Subsequent DGI meeting minutes show that DGI wants to install a 9/11 memorial in the spot where the MLK bust was. This raises more questions. If the MLK bust was getting bumped into by cars, why would a 9/11 memorial not be endangered in this spot too? And if the MLK bust could be moved to the median, why couldn’t the 9/11 memorial go there to begin with so that the MLK bust could return to its home after being refurbished?

Clearly, the public is not being given straight answers. All we have to judge are the facts. The MLK, Jr. bust has been removed from its prominent location downtown, will be refurbished with a grant from Lincoln Financial, and relocated to the outskirts of the south side of downtown. Whatever the nonsensical explanations for why, those are the factual what.

1 Comment on "What is the real story behind the removal of the MLK, Jr. bust from downtown?"

  1. The real story of the MLK bust is that Greensboro’s rich white liberal elites don’t want to remember men like Martin Luther King. And they’d rather you didn’t either.

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