Little Known Black History Fact: August Williams

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  • Professional stone mason August Williams was one of only two African American constructors that built the Martin Luther King Memorial at the National Mall. Williams was a masonry student of New Orleans who was taught to do everything the old-fashioned way, by hand. He worked as an on-call minute-man before taking on larger products like Arlington Cemetery and the National Museum of the American Indian.

    August Williams came out of retirement to work on the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial. Williams “made a call and made them an offer they couldn’t refuse” on the project. He believed that it was necessary for an African American stone mason to work on the statue. Upon arrival at the memorial site, Williams shed a tear when the reality and magnitude of the project set in.

    While in construction, Williams harvested fragments from the memorial and auctioned one in the form of a plaque online, while another was made specifically for the White House. On the plaque, Williams describes his work on the memorial. One thousand additional fragments were to be sold by Williams – each containing a piece of African American history for generations forward.

    After its completion and opening on August 22, 2011, Williams and the other masons also worked on a book about the project.

    He will forever be a part of building history; building the Mountain of Despair and Stone of Hope in Washington, D.C.

    Watch video below of August Williams speaking about building the memorial.

    (Photo: AP)

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