Incorporating stage drama, documentary film, audio archives, contemporary art and immersive technologies, Experiencing King at NC State celebrates the civil rights vision of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as it played out in North Carolina — the subject of innovative digital humanities research by NC State professors Dr. Jason Miller and Dr. Victoria J. Gallagher.
Experiencing King, which takes place Sept. 16-17, is co-presented by the NCSU Libraries, NC State LIVE, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, and the African American Cultural Center.
Actors Danny Glover and Felix Justice headline the weekend, visiting Stewart Theatre to bring Dr. King and the Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes to life in An Evening with Martin and Langston. Longtime friends, the actors have crafted a tribute to two of the country’s great orators, as well as a testament to the combined power of activism and art. Justice portrays Dr. King, and Glover becomes Hughes, on Friday, Sept. 16 at 8 p.m. in Stewart Theatre in the Talley Student Union. The actors sit down for a discussion with the audience after the performance. Tickets are available through NC State LIVE and range from $35-$40. At 7 p.m. in the Coastal Ballroom, Miller gives a pre-show talk about King’s famous speech.
The following day, in the James B. Hunt Jr. Library’s high-tech spaces, Miller, Gallagher, and Eastern Michigan University assistant professor and NC State alumnus Keon Pettiway will lead visitors through an immersive, multimedia experience that invigorates the King legacy while demonstrating the kind of engaging scholarship that the Hunt Library makes possible. The scholars present three innovative projects — Miller’s documentary film Origin of the Dream and audio restoration project King’s First Dream, and Gallagher’s interactive vMLK Digital Humanities project — animating their groundbreaking scholarship within the library’s visualization spaces. Miller and Gallagher lead two free, public tours on Saturday from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and 1-2:30 p.m.; no advance registration is necessary. Visitors can also take a self-guided tour of the multimedia experience anytime from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech galvanized the civil rights movement and changed history when he delivered it on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. in 1963. But King had said those words nine months earlier in an address in the crowded gymnasium of a segregated high school in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Miller uncovered and restored a recording of King’s Nov. 27, 1962 address, getting goosebumps when he heard the leader say “So my friends in Rocky Mount, I have a dream tonight.”
“You can hear the audience’s reactions, you can hear Dr. King rap on the podium, you can hear exactly how he enunciated his words, and more importantly, you can hear what I consider to be the most unique speech of his career,” Miller told Accolades earlier this year. Miller’s King’s First Dream website provides that audio and its transcript, along with extensive interactive annotations that place the speech in historical and literary context.
In other Experiencing King events, author David Garrow, whose book Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize in Biography and the seventh annual Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, will also visit the Hunt Library for a free, public talk and conversation on Saturday from 2:30-3:30 p.m. in the Duke Energy Hall. A professor of Law and History and Distinguished Faculty Scholar at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, Garrow is currently at work on a new book titled Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama.
Experiencing King is also rich in visual arts events, as renowned multicultural visual artist and accomplished author and illustrator Synthia SAINT JAMES unveils a new, original work, “Origin of the Dream” on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. in Duke Energy Hall. The History Maker Award winner is most celebrated for designing the first Kwanzaa Stamp for the United States Postal Service in 1997, and another in 2016. Earlier, local artist Antoine Williams leads a conversation about his site-specific installation “Black Man With a Horn” in the gallery of the African American Cultural Center (Witherspoon 355) on Friday from 3-4:30 p.m. Combining wheat-paste figuration and found objects, Williams’ distorted figures depict contemporary systemic issues around class and race.
Duke Energy Hall also hosts “Where the Dream Began,” an exhibit that tells the story of key events in the history of the City of Rocky Mount that led to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s visit in 1962. The City of Rocky Mount created the exhibit and is a proud supporter and partner of Experiencing King at NC State.