Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream returns to Mall

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is seen Monday, Aug. 22, 2011, in Washington, D.C., ahead of its dedication next weekend. Pictures: Martin Luther King Jr. Special section: Remembering MLK
CBS/Erick Washington

WASHINGTON - Years in the making, a memorial to Martin Luther King Jr. opened to the public Monday.

CBS News national correspondent Chip Reid reports when they opened the gates to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial , Madeline Coleman was one of the first in line. When she looked at the face of King, 30 feet above, she remembered the first time she saw him 48 years ago on the National Mall.

Everyone there, she said, knew immediately it was a defining moment in the fight for equal rights

"I mean it was just so emotional, first of all people we were just crying," Coleman said. "I think because there was was just so much anger in a lot of people that there rose hope that things were going to get better."

Five years later she was devastated when King was assassinated at the age of 39.

Pictures: Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

The theme of the memorial is that King is emerging from what's called the stone of hope while leaving behind the mountain of despair.

Ed Jackson, the King Memorial's executive architect, led 10 other accomplished architects in selecting the design from nearly 900 submissions.

"We were hoping to somehow carve out on the National Mall an experience for America where they could move from Lincoln to Jefferson and beyond," Jackson said.

Special Section: Remembering MLK

Some critics say the face doesn't look like King, the result, they say, of selecting a famous sculptor, Lei Yi-Shin from China. At the memorial Monday, though, many visitors were focused more on King's message rather than his features.

Susan Saleh brought her three children from New Jersey to teach them the values that King preached.

"Just because you have a different skin color doesn't mean you have to be treated differently," said her daughter, Katrina.

Today, King's is the only major memorial on the National Mall that honors someone who was not a president.

  • Chip Reid

    Chip Reid is CBS News' national correspondent.