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vMLK Project: 60th Anniverary of “A Creative Protest”

Gallagher stands in 270-degree room
Communication professor Victoria Gallagher immerses community members in one of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s most iconic speeches at NC State's James B. Hunt Library. Photo credit: Brent Brafford/NC State University Libraries

On February 15th, Dr. Victoria Gallagher and her colleague, Dr. Derek Ham, led guided tours at James B. Hunt Library of the multi-faceted vMLK project, featuring a 270-degree walk-in virtual experience, and a VR Headset experience of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s inspiring speech “A Creative Protest,” commonly referred to as “Fill Up the Jails.” The day after the event marked the 60th anniversary of the speech delivered at White Rock Baptist Church in Durham on February 16, 1960. 

The community was invited to go back in time and immerse themselves in Civil Rights history through various stations around the library. The tour began with a viewing of the Royal Ice Cream sit-in documentary that took place in Durham. As the tour continued visitors viewed a documentary of the vMLK project in the Gaming Lab and were provided an opportunity to watch and listen to the original recreation event and the audio recordings and archival photos that are the base materials for the project. They were then guided into a 270-degree viewing room and through the differentiated surround sound, were provided with a distinct listening experience depending on where they sat. A virtual reality activity placed visitors amongst those in the sanctuary on the day of Dr. King’s speech from three viewing perspectives: the podium, the congregation, and the balcony. At the end of the tour,  visitors were encouraged to provide feedback about their experience. Digital whiteboards (Jam Boards) positioned around the room invited visitors to answer open-ended questions, such as “A Creative Protest is…” 

 Self-guided tours were offered throughout the day along with family activities such as a make your own virtual reality experience. Catering for the event was provided by PIRI, a family-owned and operated business based out of East Durham. Half-way through the day, there was a performance by the White Rock Baptist Church choir and NC State’s Uninhibited Praise Choir. The event included  a book signing and presentation by Dr. Joyce Blackwell, author of Upon This Rock: White Rock Baptist Church’s Dynamic People and Their Influence in the Durham, North Carolina, Community, 1866-2016. This was followed by a community discussion on advocacy. Approximately 500 people participated in the exhibition and events at Hunt Library. In all, it was a wonderful celebration of the anniversary of Dr. King’s powerful “Fill Up the Jails” speech.