History and importance of the Martin Luther King, Jr. statue


Photo by Pierce Turner

Pierce Turner, Features Editor

Today is everyone’s favorite Monday, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. More importantly, it’s a day that celebrates pride, diversity, and progressive achievements made in equal opportunity movements. UNF honors King’s accomplishments with the now iconic eight-foot statue in Peace Plaza, the first MLK statue at any Florida campus.

Unveiled Feb. 28, 2012, the statue was designed by sculpture artist Jasu Shilpi, “The Bronze Woman of India,” who also designed the statue of Mahatma Gandhi in the same plaza. Unfortunately, Shilpi died a year later, leaving behind the MLK statue as one of her final works.

The base of the sculptor is engraved with three important quotes from King:

“We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”

“Ultimately a genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.”

“Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. Indeed, it is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it.”

Photo by Pierce Turner.

The MLK statue is accompanied by the aforementioned statue of Gandhi and a stone table wrapped in quotations from Henry David Thoreau. These three monumental symbols of prosperity make up the Peace Plaza and offer a place for students to reflect on their work in the middle of campus.

In the six years since the statue’s unveiling, the world around it has changed quite a bit. The Black Lives Matter movement began, Richard Spencer spoke in Florida, and right here at UNF a racist video went viral and there was recent activity from white supremacists.

In spite this, UNF President John Delaney believes in the strong meaning behind the statue.

“I still really like the statute and what it and the Gandhi statue represent for Peace Plaza,” Delaney said. “Both are reminders of standing up for justice. Both are [historical] figures whose lives preceded even the opening of the University.”

Delaney is right. The student behind the racist video was shunned by UNF students, a frustrated Richard Spencer left a crowd of protestors at UF, and anti-Nazi protesters outnumbered Nazis 25-to-1 at Kenny Parker’s disciplinary hearing.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. statue and the plaza it rests in represents quiet and peaceful reflection and resolution. Though the occasionally loud guy wearing a gun t-shirt and holding a giant sign may interrupt the tranquility, the students who walk by ignoring him are sending a much louder message.


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