A new Boston monument titled “The Embrace” portrays a hug between the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King.
A new monument dedicated to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King has caught a wave of backlash since being erected over the weekend. Titled “The Embrace,” the 20-foot tall, 40-foot wide bronze sculpture was unveiled on Friday (January 13) on Boston Common with 22,000 in attendance. Inspired by a photograph of Dr. King and Scott King hugging after the former won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, the monument was created by Brooklyn-based artist Hank Willis Thomas.
While the art piece shows the couple’s arms and not their heads, some have compared the monument to phallicism. Seneca Scott, a community organizer in Oakland, California, and cousin of the late Scott King, said in a Compact Magazine essay that “The Embrace” was a “masturbatory metal homage.”
“Ten million dollars were wasted to create a masturbatory metal homage to my legendary family members—one of the all-time greatest American families,” Scott wrote.
Opposing Scott’s views was Dr. King and Scott King’s eldest son Martin Luther King III.
“I think that’s a huge representation of bringing people together,” he said. “I think the artist did a great job. I’m satisfied,” he told CNN.
Thomas has since defended the piece, which was commissioned by non-profit organization Embrace Boston, from detractors.
“I’d seen a lot of work on the images of Dr. King, but I realized I hadn’t focused on and noticed the way intimacy was present in [the Kings’] relationship—the way that they looked at each other and laughed at each other, walked hand in hand and arm in arm,” Thomas told The Art Newspaper. “I was really excited to see them hugging and embracing…also, the pride and joy on her face, and the glee and almost a sense of relief on his face.
Check out more reactions to “The Embrace” below.
I am all for honoring the great Martin Luther King and I mean no disrespect to him but this tribute statue they unveiled in Boston is downright UGLY It looks like 2 hands holding up a big turd .. pretty bad IMHO … I just don’t get it … pic.twitter.com/lkNASu51a1
— Joe Bonsall (@joebonsall) January 16, 2023
People: Hey Boston! Let’s make a statue representing MLK!
— Big Cheese (@BigCheese) January 14, 2023
— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) January 17, 2023
That MLK statue looks obscene from certain angles, but when you see the whole thing you realize it’s supposed to depict the result of Martin Luther King Jr. and Corretta Scott King having gone through the teleporter in The Fly together.
— Frank J. Fleming (@IMAO_) January 14, 2023
This is the kind of statue a society would make if it hated Martin Luther King https://t.co/iVnnJ3FJ0B
— Payton Alexander (@AlexanderPayton) January 14, 2023
Boston. With an MLK monument, imagine that…. https://t.co/6jX5iuMHVC
— Church Sox (@KarlousM) January 16, 2023
Public art and the decisions around it are political.
In a country that has VERY FEW public monuments and statues of Black people, the "Embrace" Martin Luther King statue in Boston sends a message.
A lot of the wrong ones. (1/n)
— Karen Attiah IS ON INSTAGRAM @karenattiah (@KarenAttiah) January 16, 2023
Boston has some of the least impressive outdoor art. They could have done much better for the memory of MLK, who got his doctorate from BU.
— Jim Stinson (@jimstinson) January 14, 2023