MLK Statue for Martin Luther King, Jr. Park (originally The Parade)
Completed by the African American sculptor John Woodrow Wilson, the addition of a large-scale bust of Civil Rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. is representative of a long history of place- making strategies employed by African Americans to remake public spaces in their own image. Wilson’s sculpture operates less of a liter- al representation of King as it is an assemblage of the ‘Black every- man’ who contributed to sustaining and disseminating legacy of the Civil Rights movement in the United States. This style of representation has come under scrutiny in recent years by African Americans interested in replacing Wilson’s statue with a more realistic likeness of the Civil Rights leader.
Originally known as The Parade, this park was designed to be an important part of Frederick Law Olmsted’s ring of parks within the city of Buffalo. It operated as a public park and pleasure ground for up- per-middle class and middle-class white residents of the city, housing some of the first major recreational swimming spaces within the urban fabric. The Science Museum was added to this site as a formal front to the park. As Buffalo’s East Side became a predominantly Af- rican American neighborhood, disinvestment grew, and the construction of a local interstate cut apart much of Olmsted’s plan. Fortunately, much of the original park itself was spared.