Well, here’s another way President Obama has put his historic stamp on the presidency. With no fanfare or media attention, President Obama added to the Oval Office: a 12 5/8″ bronze bust of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.
The work, titled “Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968),” is by celebrated African-American sculptor Charles Alston — the first African-American instructor at the Art Students League — who died in 1977.
When the Smithsonian lent the bust to the President Bill Clinton’s White House in 2000 to be displayed in the White House Library, that marked, believe it or not, the very first time that the image of an African-American was displayed in a public space in the White House. At one point the bust was one of the first artifacts guest would see as they walked the East Wing entrance into the White house.
The King bust sits near the fireplace and adjacent a bust of President Abraham Lincoln, with the two legendary Americans facing President Obama when he sits at the Resolute Desk. The Lincoln bust sits where a bust of Sir Winston Churchill — on loan from the British Embassy after the 9/11 attacks, and returned before Mr. Obama’s inauguration — once sat.