Buffalo Bust

Petitioners want to replace Buffalo statue of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Design East News
Buffalo locals call for the removal of a non-look-a-like bust of MLK Jr. from his namesake park. (Courtesy TIME)
Buffalo locals call for the removal of a non-look-a-like bust of MLK Jr. from his namesake park. (Courtesy TIME)

Thousands of Buffalo, New York, residents are calling for an 8-foot-tall bronze bust of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to be replaced with a more accurate portrayal of the civil rights leader. The Buffalo News reported that activists Samuel A. Herbert and Sylvester Herald have collected over 6,000 signatures since January for a petition to remove the gargantuan sculpture from Martin Luther King, Jr. Park in the Kingsley neighborhood of the upstate city.

Created by renowned African-American artist John Woodrow Wilson in 1983, the sculpture hovers over a stone ledge inside the 50-acre park, which was designed by Olmsted and Vaux in the 19th century. Upon installation decades ago, the statue wasn’t widely praised for its likeness, but Wilson reportedly sketched the bust not to entirely resemble Dr. King, but rather, to look like an “everyman” that young black men and others could see themselves in.

While the sentiment is still relevant today, locals want to honor Dr. King in the 21st century with a statue the mirrors his face and demeanor.

Herbert and Herald aim to collect 4,000 more signatures before presenting the petition to local and state officials, and word is spreading fast. The pair’s goal is to begin fundraising and install a new bust as early as 2020.  

The movement to remove and replace Wilson’s sculpture coincides with Boston’s effort to build a memorial dedicated to Dr. King and Coretta Scott King. The top five finalists for that memorial have already been chosen.

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