A rhetorical digital humanities project of the "Fill Up the Jails" public speech

History of the Speech

Featuring Excerpts from, Gallagher, Swift and Zagacki, “From ‘Dead Wrong’ to Civil Rights History: The Durham ‘Royal Seven,’ Martin Luther King’s 1960 ‘Fill Up the Jails’ Speech, and the Rhetoric of Visibility.”

As with many significant events in history, the events that led up to Dr. Martin Luther King’s delivery of his speech, “A Creative Protest,” in February 1960 are, in some ways, as important as the speech itself. These events help us to understand how this particular speech came to be delivered by this particular person on this particular day in this particular church and city. Indeed, on June 23, 1957, nearly three years before the now famous sit-in at the Woolworths’ store in Greensboro, North Carolina, Reverend Douglas Moore, the pastor of Asbury Temple United Methodist Church in Durham, organized a protest at the Royal Ice Cream Company. Rev. Moore had been a classmate of Dr. King’s in Boston and it was at his invitation that Dr. King came to Durham to speak out in support of the students in Greensboro and to encourage the black community and its allies to “fill up the jails” of the South if that was what was needed to attain civil rights and human dignity.

Read Gallagher, Victoria J., Zagacki, K., and Swift, J. “From ‘Dead Wrong’ to Civil Rights History: The Durham ‘Royal Seven,’ Martin Luther King’s 1960 ‘Fill Up the Jails’ Speech, and the Rhetoric of Visibility,” in Like a Fire: The Rhetoric of the Civil Rights Sit­Ins. Edited by Sean Patrick O’Rourke and Lesli K. Pace. Under review at University of South Carolina Press. [download PDF]

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