Harrisburg’s Best Kept Secret! The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is located on the Cameron Parkway East section of the Capital Area Greenbelt between 19th and 28th streets. It is only reachable by the Greenbelt, which creates a peaceful setting, perfect for quiet reflection.
The Memorial The memorial celebrates the crusades Dr. King undertook to achieve social justice for African-Americans in the United States. The predominant feature of the site is the eleven-foot, jet black granite obelisk in the center of the memorial garden. It was imported from India and gifted to the garden by an anonymous donor. Next to the monument is an informational kiosk featuring photos of Dr. King and inspirational text written by Dr. Dorothy King (no relation). A copy of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech given in Washington, D.C. is accessible by scanning a QR code on the signage.
As you view the memorial from the Greenbelt, you’ll notice six granite slabs on each side of the entrance leading to the obelisk with the name of Dr. King’s twelve historic crusades. The granite markers and the granite bench were generously donated by Norm Lacasse. Norm was instrumental in the discovery of the century-old trail system in the early 1990s and is a founding member of the Capital Area Greenbelt Association.
You may wonder why the memorial was not located in more heavily trafficked section of Harrisburg. At the time of the garden’s formation, money was not available to purchase land in an ideal spot for the memorial. The property is owned by the City of Harrisburg and was made available by the city’s Parks and Recreation Director at no cost. The Capital Area Greenbelt Association took on the project.
It took 12 years to build the memorial and create the beautiful landscaping surrounding it. A unique feature of the memorial is one that you won’t see. It’s a time capsule developed during construction. The capsule consists of a handmade miniature coffin containing a letter from then Mayor Linda Thompson. Also inside is a list of signatures of court-adjudicated youth who signed a pledge never to speak the “N” word again. The miniature coffin was laid in the concrete base of the Memphis Crusade granite marker by Mayor Thompson at its installation ceremony.
The Gardens On the other side of the kiosk, you can read about the native plants in the surrounding gardens. Great care was taken to choose native plants both for their environmental benefit as well as for the practical reason of reducing maintenance. Behind the six rows of the bee- and bird-friendly plants is a row of deer-resistant juniper trees.
Maintaining these beautiful grounds requires a team of volunteers. One of the first volunteer groups came from Daikon Youth Services. Through the years, members of the Keystone Rotary Club, Dauphin County Master Gardeners, individuals needing community service hours, as well as other interested parties, have all contributed to the effort to keep the gardens well-tended.
The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial reminds us of Dr. King’s vision for a just America for everyone. If your next walk or ride brings you by the memorial, take some time enjoy the landscaping and quiet and reflect on his message of peace and justice that’s as relevant today as it was then.
Click here for information on Dr. King’s twelve crusades, which are memorialized at the monument.