May 1983 DC

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To add some context around the veteran liking the memorial, there was originally a lot of backlash to the design when the memorial was being planned and built. A design competition for the memorial was held, and 21-year-old Yale University student Maya Lin's design was chosen as the winner. The stark minimalistic design was the polar opposite of the classical heroic monuments that many of the supporters of the memorial were expecting.

Lin's design was derided as a "nihilistic slab of stone" and a "black gash of shame," and Lin was the target of racial slurs and anger over an Asian American winning the competition. The public outcry was so great that the Secretary of Interior initially blocked the project from getting built. Eventually a compromise was reached, and a more traditional statue of soldiers was designed to be placed next to the memorial.

Today we know that the black wall of Lin's original design has resonated with millions of people. It's amazing to think that there was so much opposition for what is now considered to be a powerful and quintessential memorial.


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