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NCSU digital project to re-create MLK's 1960 speech in Durham

Posted June 13
Updated June 16

— Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s "I Have a Dream" speech, which he delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, is a vivid part of American history that was captured on camera.

But some of the eloquent speeches given by the slain civil rights leader were never preserved on film, such as the momentous speech King made in Durham a few years earlier.

Researchers at North Carolina State University are working to re-create the speech in a virtual platform that will take people back to that moment.

Actor Marvin Blanks, who plays the part of King, went back to White Rock Baptist Church in Durham recently to deliver the same words King spoke there in 1960, just two weeks after sit-ins in Greensboro.

“We must answer by saying we are willing and prepared to fill up the jails of the South,” Blanks said during the re-enactment.

Keon Pettiway, a doctorate student working on the project, said the Durham speech was “the first time that Dr. Martin Luther King called for direct nonviolent action.”

For the project, designers will build a 3-D model of the sanctuary at the old White Rock Baptist Church and add the audio from Blanks’ live performance.

Pettiway said the results will give modern viewers a chance to experience what it was like that night in Durham.

“All of (it) combined together makes for a transformative moment, perhaps in a similar way to that transformative moment in 1960,” he said.

The audio of the speech will be available to the public later this summer. Designers hope to begin work on the 3-D model later this year and install the finished project at Hunt Library.

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