13 Jan 2022

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Yerba Buena Gardens Celebrates National Hero

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a day of reflection, and in San Francisco there is no more appropriate – and peaceful — place to take stock than at the liquid-and-stone memorial celebrating the civil rights leader’s life.

The memorial is the centerpiece of Yerba Buena Gardens and is appropriately titled Revelation. From a distance, it appears as soothing, manmade waterfalls cascading over Sierra granite into a pool below.

A closer inspection of the structure reveals that the waterfalls and the wall behind them form a tunnel from which visitors can view glass panels inscribed with 14 inspirational quotes from Rev. King and historic images from the civil rights movement. A dozen of the quotes are translated into other languages, echoing MLK’s call for equality and inclusion.

“No. No, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream,” reads one of the quotes, from King’s famous 1963 “I have a dream” speech in Washington, D.C.

The memorial is meant to be toured from the right side, where visitors are greeted with the above quote and an image of MLK, to the left, where it concludes with a quote from a speech MLK made while visiting San Francisco in 1956:

“I believe the day will come when all God’s children from bass black to treble white will be significant on the Constitution’s keyboard.”

Visitors can also view the structure from the terrace level above, where they will find a 120,000-gallon reflecting pool as the source of the waterfalls.

Artist and sculptor Houston Cornwill created Revelation in collaboration with poet Estella Cornwill Majoza, his sister, and architect Joseph De Pace. It was built 1993 and is the second largest MLK memorial after the one at Washington, D.C.’s National Mall.

MLK Day will be observed this year on January 17, but San Francisco’s touching and powerful tribute to a national hero is available to view 365 days of the year.