Washington DC Memorials: Martin Luther King, Jr., Franklin Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson

Around the Tidal Basin in Washington DC are three memorials to Martin Luther King, Jr., Franklin Roosevelt, and Thomas Jefferson.

In the memorials are inscribed quotations spoken or written by these extraordinary men.

Thomas Jefferson is the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, Franklin Roosevelt is president of the United States during World War II, Martin Luther King, Jr. is a leader of civil rights for all.

Their words are timeless, their ideals and actions in the history of the United States speak to us today.


Martin Luther King, Jr.

Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.

I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.


Franklin Roosevelt

Freedom of speech
Freedom of worship
Freedom from want
Freedom from fear.

The structure of world peace cannot be the work of one man, or one party, or one nation … It must be a peace which rests on the cooperative effort of the whole world.


Thomas Jefferson

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men.

I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times.


Children’s books

  • Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr.? by Bonnie Bader, Elizabeth Wolf.
  • Before visiting his memorial, read this biography about the great voice of civil rights Martin Luther King, Jr., who believed in peaceful protest and equal rights for black people. Leader of freedom marches, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, “I have a dream.” (Chapter book)
  • I am Martin Luther King, Jr.? by Brad Meltzer Christopher Eliopoulos.
  • Growing up, Martin Luther King’s parents taught him that he was as good as anyone, even though black people were treated very differently than white people. He wanted to protest, using peaceful methods, he gave speeches – “to work and fight until justice runs down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream,” organized demonstrations for freedom, and changed the world. (Picture book)
  • Who Was Franklin Roosevelt? by Margaret Frith, John O’Brien.
  • Illustrated biography of Franklin Roosevelt, who served for 12 years and was president during World II. Crippled with polio, that didn’t slow him down – he drove his own car and swam in the pool every day. And he like to talk, and broadcast weekly radio shows to the American public. (Chapter book)
  • A Boy Named FDR: How Franklin Roosevelt Grew Up to Change America by Kathleen Krull, Steve Johnson, Lou Fancher.
  • Franklin Roosevelt was born into a wealthy family, but his parents taught him to “help the helpless, ” his high school headmaster urged the students to go into politics to make things better, Franklin was sympathetic to the less fortunate and met people from vastly different backgrounds than his own. Stricken with polio, his legs were paralyzed, but, with Eleanor’s support, FDR returned to politics. Roosevelt was president for four terms, leading the country through the Great Depression and World War II. (Picture book)
  • Who Was Thomas Jefferson? by Dennis Brindell Fradin, John O’Brien.
  • Thomas Jefferson was not only author of the Declaration of Independence and third president of the United States, he read and spoke multiple languages, played the violin, loved horseback riding, invented tools, collected fossils, designed buildings. (Chapter book)
  • Thomas Jefferson: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything by Maira Kalman.
  • Meet Thomas Jefferson, who was curious about everything – he designed and built his house, collected maps, paintings, cultivated his vegetable garden, and read everything under the sun. At Monticello his bed was two-sided so he could hop up and go into his study, or get up on the other side, and go outdoors. Fabulous imaginative illustrations bring Thomas Jefferson to life. (Picture book)

    On Travel for Kids, find more fun things to do with kids in Washington DC, and also our selected list of Washington DC family hotels.