Martin Luther King, Jr.: Speech in Rocky Mount, N.C., November 1962

The OICA team visited the auditorium in Rocky Mount where Dr. Martin Luther King gave the original “I have a dream” address. The below article gives historical background on his visit to Rocky Mount.

By Michael Hill

Research Branch, NC Office of Archives and History, 2006
https://www.ncdcr.gov/about/history/division-historical-resources/nc-highway-historical-marker-program

In his speech, Nov. 27, 1962, in a gym at Atlantic Avenue and Spruce Street in Rocky Mount Rocky, civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered a speech with the refrain “I have a dream,” used in his Lincoln Memorial address in 1963.

A speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. in Rocky Mount on November 27, 1962, has drawn much attention. In that address, before 1,800 in the gymnasium at Booker T. Washington High School (that building presently is a city recreation center gym), Dr. King used a number of expressions that made their way into the landmark speech at the Lincoln Memorial, part of the March on Washington on August 28, 1963. In Rocky Mount, Dr. King began by noting that he had been in North Carolina “many, many times” but that this was his “first time in this section.” (He paid multiple visits to Durham and Raleigh.) 

Near the close he built toward these lines: “I have a dream that one day right here in Rocky Mount, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will meet at the table of brotherhood, knowing that one God brought man to the face of the Earth. I have a dream tonight that one day my little daughter and my two sons will grow up in a world not conscious of the color of their skin, but only conscious of the fact that they are members of the human race. . . .” 

Some have asserted that this marked the first use of the “I have a dream” phrase. Clayborne Carson, King Papers editor at Stanford University, has examined the address and declines to say that this was the first such use but states that it “appears to be an important new rhetorical formulation.” Attorney Drew Hansen in 2003 published The Dream, a book-length account of the landmark speech. He indicates that the words were used in Albany, Georgia, prior to their use in Rocky Mount. Near the end of his life, in an interview, Dr. King recalled that the tired Georgia audience failed to be moved by the words. By the spring and summer of 1963 the words were among the most frequent of his set pieces.  https://www.ncpedia.org/martin-luther-king-jr-speech-rocky-mount-1962

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