all donors in contributions to the $120 million King memorial
23, 2011) General Motors Co. was one of the earliest supporters of the
decade-long odyssey to build a memorial honoring the Rev. Martin Luther
King Jr. on the National Mall. At $10 million, GM and the General Motors
Foundation was the largest donor to the $120 million memorial that opened
to the public Monday.
Other automakers and their foundations also stepped up: The Ford
Foundation and Toyota Motor Corp. each gave $2 million, Hyundai Motor Co.
$1 million and Honda Motor Co. $500,000. The Michigan-based W.K. Kellogg
Foundation also was among the largest donors, giving $3 million.
GM Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson and clothing designer Tommy Hilfiger,
whose company donated the second largest amount, will be among those
speaking at Sunday's dedication ceremony, which will be led by President
"This is an important moment in our nation's history, and we hope this
memorial will inspire others to turn their own dreams into action,"
Akerson said in a statement.
The Detroit-based automaker, whose headquarters is in America's largest
majority African-American city, took a special interest in the project.
"The GM Foundation and General Motors were among the first to contribute
to the legacy of Dr. King by sponsoring this important memorial," said
Harry Johnson, president and CEO of the Martin Luther King National
GM has been working on the memorial effort since around 2000, when the
proposal to support it was presented to GM's CEO Rick Wagoner and North
American President Gary Cowger by Rod Gillum, a former vice president of
corporate responsibility and diversity at GM and chairman of the GM
Cowger has co-chaired the memorial's Executive Leadership Council since
2003 and spent years working to raise money and persuade other corporate
executives to donate. He retired from GM in 2009.
"The world needs to remember," Cowger said. "A lot of children really have
no idea of Dr. King's legacy."
Gillum, co-chairman of the memorial foundation's board, said the economic
climate made fundraising tough, but he had no doubt the project would
"There was no question the memorial would be built," said Gillum, now a
Detroit lawyer who left GM in 2009. "It was clearly the right thing for GM
to take a leadership role."
He noted GM is widely credited as the first major corporation to have an
African-American director: the Rev. Leon Sullivan, who joined GM's board
United Auto Workers President Bob King praised GM's donation and the
memorial "as a testament to the social responsibility of General Motors."
He noted that UAW President Walter Reuther spoke with King at the 1963
March on Washington, and Reuther lent King office space in Detroit in
"He was the leader that supported Dr. King when many in the labor movement
didn't," Bob King said.
He added that the civil rights leader is a personal hero and said he tries
to model his life on King and Reuther. "I read (King's) speeches. I go
back and read his speeches," he said.
The auto industry fanned the migration of 1 million Southern
African-Americans to the North. In 1910, 1 percent of Detroiters -- 5,741
citizens -- were African-American -- and 25 of 10,000 auto workers were
black, according to the University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library.
By 1930, the number of African-Americans living in Detroit jumped to
120,000 as automakers and other factories sought new workers. But early
African-American workers often had the worst jobs in auto plants.
Many GM executives will take part in events all week in Washington,
including GM North American chief Mark Reuss, who will speak at a
star-studded gala dinner Saturday.
GM's Chevrolet brand is sponsoring a "Table of Brotherhood" four-city tour
to bring people together to discuss King's legacy, as well as issues such
as education, the economy, health care, and cultural diversity and
The talks include events in recent weeks in Memphis, Tenn.; Chicago; and
Atlanta -- as well as Friday in Washington -- and have included film
director Spike Lee; U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga.; and everyday people
having conversations about race.
"How do we continue the drive that Dr. King started in addressing the
concerns in our community?" said Chris Perry, GM's vice president for U.S.
marketing. "It's been a pretty moving experience."
GM executives hope the memorial will inspire young people. "It's important
to remind the younger children about Dr. King and how far we've come; but
there's still a ways to go. We're not there yet," Perry said.
"GM is proud to be involved, but this isn't a GM thing -- a lot of
corporations got involved," Perry said. "This is really a dedication of a
"Dr. King's vision of peace and hope continue to impact the nation and the
world while inspiring Hyundai to continue to be a company of bold ideas,
big goals and big dreams," added John Krafcik, president and CEO of
Hyundai Motor America.
Go to Target Market News homepage
Creditors ask bankruptcy judge to force Inner City
Broadcasting into Chapter 11
Johnson Publishing Co. names Kierna Mayo Editorial
Director, Digital for Ebony
Target Market News names Karen Weddington Vice
President of Sales
BET specials celebrate unveiling of the Martin
Luther King Memorial
Ebony, Essence out-pace industry average for growth
in ad revenue
Black TV Ratings for Week of August 8 - 14 As summer
line-ups cool, audience number get warmer for TV networks
Sister 2 Sister magazine and Sofn'free launch 'Hair
Northwestern Mutual Foundation sponsors MLK Memorial
Paddington Brands forms partnership with AP & Assoc.
for multicultural effort
Venus Williams joins Jamba Juice as spokesperson and
Click here for
more recent news stories and our news archive
Return to top of page