Martin Luther King, Jr. Week Celebration
The University of South Florida will host a commemorative celebration in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Check here for a schedule of events as well as some facts about the history of MLK Fountain.
TAMPA, Fla. (Jan. 15, 2015) - A weeklong commemorative celebration in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. kicked off today at the University of South Florida. View a schedule of events here. Even though this week has a special emphasis on the civil rights leader's accomplishments, the MLK Plaza at USF's Tampa campus represents his legacy year-round.
1982: The Black Student Union and USF Student Government work together on dedicating the plaza to Dr. King.
1992: The original bust is made for and placed in the plaza.
1996: Artist L. Ackley-Eacker recasts the bust and adds shoulders. The bust is moved to its current location near the trellis walkway on Nov. 13. The granite details are added to the plaza. The project budget totaled $1.8 million.
1997: Final completion of MLK Plaza as we know it today.
2002: Bust vandalized by throwing it into the reflection pool.
2003: Another vandalism attempt, this time not as “successful” but USF officials took two months making it even stronger.
The MLK bust, recast from its original head to include a neck and shoulders, is made out of bronze and stands at the exact height King stood.
Five stretches of granite cut through the concrete plaza, all originating from the base of the bust and heading toward Boston, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Montgomery and Memphis. All of these cities held significance for King and his mission to strengthen social equality.
On the other side of the reflection pond and fountain are the words of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, engraved in granite panels.
Just as it was during the real man’s life, the MLK bust has faced some pretty bad days. In 2002 the bust was removed from its granite pedestal by a vandal and thrown into the reflecting pond. The fortunate aspect is that the bust wasn’t damaged and could be set back in place. Unfortunately, the following year someone tried to pry the bust off the granite, bending some of the supporting rods. They only managed to lift it about a quarter of an inch off the platform. But it still took two months to make the repairs.
The majority of the time, though, the bust remains unscathed. MLK Plaza serves as a common meeting place at USF, and the engravings of the speech emphasize the university’s dedication to diversity.
Some may question the direct connection that King has to USF. He actually came to speak in Tampa before he made his “I Have a Dream” speech or was named “Man of the Year” by Time. In 2011, his son Martin Luther King III came to USF to talk about his father’s legacy and the continuing evolution of social equality.