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Virtual reality brings Dr. King's famous Durham speech to NC State

Posted February 9, 2020 3:05 p.m. EST
Updated February 9, 2020 6:54 p.m. EST

— Sixty years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a historic speech at a church in Durham. This week, an interactive event at North Carolina State University will allow people who weren't there to experience it in the present.

Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech, which he delivered in Washington, D.C. on Aug. 28, 1963, is famous, but many people don’t know that Durham was a central part of the civil rights movement before that, complete with protests and sit-ins.

On Feb. 16, 1960, Dr. King spoke at White Rock Baptist Church on Fayetteville Street.

"Dr. King saw that impact, so he decided to come to Durham to say, 'What you’re doing here is making an impact,'" said Candice Edrington, an instructor at N.C. State.

Dr. King's Durham's speech became known as the "Fill the Jails" speech. Now, 60 years later, it’s the inspiration for the the immersion event in Raleigh.

With virtual reality, visitors will get to step into White Rock Baptist church for themselves. Videos feature a voice actor reading Dr. King’s words other images to walk users through the moment. The 90-minute tours will feature walking and standing, and self-guided tours will also be available.

"What you get to see and what you get to experience is an image of the actual night of the speech,” said Max Renner, another instructor. "If you are in the front of the room, it feels very much like you are right next to Dr. King giving the speech. If you are in the middle, you really get to hear this kind of call and response.”

"There will be storybook readings, coloring activities...a lot of engaging activities," said Edrington. "They are welcome to do the guided tour as well—so there a lot of things that get the whole family involved.”

And after years of hard work, organizers say participants will get a unique perspective to the past and a seat in the front row of history.

The event is free and will be held Saturday, Feb. 15, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at James B. Hunt Jr. Library, located on campus at 1070 Partners Way.

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