ROCKY MOUNT - In 1962, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered an early version of his now famous “I Have a Dream” speech to a crowd in the Booker T. Washington gymnasium.
Now, more than 50 years later, that audio recording has been restored and the gym re-staged for the public to hear Dr. King’s words again.
Dr. Jason Miller has been leading the charge.
“Imagine finding the rough draft of Einstein working out E=MC2, or the blue prints to the golden gate bridge, or even some unknown symphony by Beethoven. Dr. King’s I have a dream speech is the single most important speech in American history so to understand its origins is the way we understand its purposes and what Dr. King was accomplishing as he pivots towards the most important moment of the civil rights movement 1963, is beginning right here in this very gym.”
For some, it’s not the first time to hear the speech as they were in the Rocky Mount audience back in ’62.
Herbert Tillman is one of those people.
“It was such a monumental type event that that’s one of those things that you never forget and they had right here,” says Tillman.
He goes on to say, “We knew all the struggles we were going through and we knew the battles we were facing. And a lot of people would come and they would just talk about the negativity so much. But when Martin Luther King Jr. came, when he mentioned the negativity too he gave an answer to it as far as hope. I think Martin Luther King brought hope to Rocky Mount and not just to Rocky mount but to the entire nation as far as I’m concerned. Because there was a lot of people, they didn’t see this day coming where in people were intertwined the way they are now.”
The following is an excerpt of King’s speech in Rocky Mount:
“And so my friends of Rocky Mount, I have a dream tonight. It is a dream rooted deeply in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day down in Sasser County, Georgia, where they burned two churches down a few days ago because Negroes wanted to register and vote, one day right down there little black boys and little black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and little white girls and walk the streets as brothers and sisters.
I have a dream that one day right here in Rocky Mountain, North Carolina, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will meet at the table of brotherhood, knowing that out of one blood God made all men to dwell upon the face of the earth.
I have a dream that one day men all over this nation will recognize that all men were created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights.”