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

OCT 2016 – vMLK featured at the 2016 Southern Colloquium on Rhetoric

On October 21, the 2016 Southern Colloquium on Rhetoric focused on “three texts from contemporary rhetorical theory that leverage the concept of energy to build their argument—and discuss them with reference to a specific, concrete example of public address.” The vMLK project was featured as a “concrete example of public address.”

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OCT. 2016 – White Rock Baptist Church celebrates 150th anniversary


This year, White Rock Baptist Church (WRBC) celebrates 150 years of service. Recent events included a Sesquicentennial Worship Service, Heritage Golf Tournament, and Anniversary Luncheon. King’s speech in Durham, held at the White Rock Baptist Church, was titled “A Creative Protest,” and came to be known for King’s groundbreaking endorsement of non-violent confrontation.

View WRBC’s anniversary presentation

Read more about WRBC’s history

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OCT 2016 – vMLK project presented at the Association for the Study of African American Life and History Meeting

On Thursday, October 6, 2016, Dr. Victoria Gallagher presented “The vMLK Project: Crafting a Necessary Space to Explore Black History and Civic Transformation” as part of the Black Time Travel: History Telling in Virtual Space panel at the  101st Association for the Study of African American Life and History Annual Meeting in Richmond, Virginia. The conference theme was “Hallowed Ground: Sites of American Memories.”

Read more about the “Black Time Travel: History Telling in Virtual Space” panel session

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SEP. 2016 – vMLK project featured at “Experiencing King” walking tours


Dr. Martin Luther King made an extraordinary impact on our state’s and our nation’s struggle for civil rights. On September 16-17, This impact was experienced and understood anew in the James B. Hunt Jr. Library at NC State University. The Saturday walking tour exhibits and events feature digitally enabled, immersive experiences of two historic speeches King gave in North Carolina: “A Creative Protest [“Fill Up the Jails”],” which he delivered in Durham on February 16, 1960 and “Facing the Challenge of a New Age,” delivered in Rocky Mount on November 27, 1962. The vMLK Project was featured as part of immersive experiences of King’s “Fill Up the Jails” speech.

Learn more at http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/experiencing-king.

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vMLK Exhibition Showcase at Upcoming 2016 CHASS Lightning Rod

We are planning to showcase versions of the experience in August 2016 during a weekend event at the Hunt Library that is geared toward establishing NC State University as an important center for innovative, humanities-based, civil rights-related scholarship, which is of use and interest to the public. Proposed events include a dramatic portrayal of Langston Hughes and Martin Luther King, Jr. by well known actors, the work of painter Synthia Saint James, and a walking tour of the Hunt library featuring three humanities-based projects:
  • King’s First Dream— a web site making the restored audio and educational resources available of the first time Dr. King delivered “I have a dream” (Rocky Mount NC, November 27, 1962)
  • Origins of the Dream— a documentary film showing various intellectual connections between Langston Hughes and Martin Luther King
  • vMLK project— a digital media project engaging listeners in immersive experiences of Dr. King’s historically significant “Fill up the Jails” address delivered in Durham in Feb. 1960.
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vMLK Team Pilots a 2015-2016 Immersive Learning Environment Project


The Virtual MLK Project team has created a pilot project for COM 110, Public Speaking, an introductory foundational course at NC State University in public speaking skills. The project provides a unique opportunity for students to share an immersive experience of public speaking for civic engagement that they will then transform into an advocacy speech. 

The objective of this project is to develop and evaluate pedagogical strategies for using the Virtual Martin Luther King, Jr. Project, a rhetorical digital humanities project of the “Fill Up the Jails” speech, in COM 110 courses at NC State University. The purpose of using the vMLK project in this introductory course is to offer students an immersive learning environment for learning about the importance and potential of public speaking within the context of civil rights and collective action.

As a rhetorical digital humanities project, vMLK offers pedagogical opportunities for investigating, understanding, and connecting with historical moments related to diversity and inclusion in contemporary settings. Please visit https://vmlk.chass.ncsu.edu/pedagogy for more information about vMLK curricula resources. 

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vMLK Project exhibition, presentation, and panel discussion at 2015 COM Week

The Department of Communication will host an annual event that includes workshops, panel discussions, and lectures. This year, the Virtual MLK Project will be featured as a public exhibition, presentation, and panel discussion at COM Week 2015. For more information about COM Week, please visit http://communication.chass.ncsu.edu/academics/other_programs/com_week.php.

Virtual MLK 55th Anniversary Exhibition Experience

Time: 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m
Place:  Hunt Library Learning & Visualization Lab (Centennial Campus)

An opportunity for NC State students and faculty to experience the vMLK project commemorative exhibition. Members of the community will also be attending. 

Virtual MLK Presentation & Panel Discussion

Time: 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Place:  Caldwell Lounge


  • Mr. Justin Drust, Audio Director for the vMLK project
  • Dr. Stephen B. Crofts Wiley, Department of Communication Facutly Member
  • Dr. Blair Kelly, Department of History Facutly Member
  • Dr. Jason Miller, Department of English Faculty Member
  • Dr. Elizabeth Nelson, Department of Communication Facutly member
  • Students from COM 110
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EVENT RESCHEDULED: Join us on February 23 at Hunt Library to commemorate the 55th anniversary of “Fill Up the Jails”

Please note: Due to inclement weather, the 55th anniversary planned for Monday, February 16, 2015 has been rescheduled for Monday, February 23, 2015 at 7:00pm.

On behalf of the Virtual MLK Project at North Carolina State University, you are invited to join the research team and guests in the Hunt Library Teaching and Visualization Lab for a commemoration of the 55th anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s influential “Fill Up the Jails” speech.

View details at http://vmlk.chass.ncsu.edu/55th.

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PRESS RELEASE: NC State University researchers celebrate the 55th anniversary of MLK’s “Fill up the Jails” historic speech

Contact: Keon Pettiway or Dr. Victoria Gallagher
NC State University Virtual Martin Luther King Jr. Project
Email: kmpettiw@ncsu.edu or vgallagh@ncsu.edu

NC State University researchers celebrate the 55th anniversary of
“Fill up the Jails” by releasing a digital re-creation of MLK’s
historic speech endorsing non-violence as a creative means of protest

RALEIGH, N.C., January 5, 2015 – February 16, 2015 will mark the 55th anniversary of  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s first public endorsement of non-violent direct action as means to achieve civil and human rights. To celebrate the legacy of MLK’s widely influential “Fill up the Jails” speech,  NC State University’s Virtual Martin Luther King Jr. Project produced a digital audio re-creation of the speech. The speech was recorded during Marvin Blanks’s reenactment earlier this year at White Rock Baptist Church, the original location of the speech (Mr. Blanks is a nationally recognized voice actor known as the “Orator of the Century”) . The speech will be available to public on Thursday, January 8, 2015 at http://vmlk.chass.ncsu.edu.

King’s speech, “A Creative Protest,” encouraged young people to “fill up the jails” in acts of civil disobedience in solidarity with the Woolworth sit-ins that began two weeks earlier in Greensboro. It was the first time Dr. King openly encouraged activists to disrupt and break the law through non-violent confrontation. “If the officials threaten to arrest us for standing up for our rights, we must answer by saying that we are willing and prepared to fill up the jails of the South. Maybe it will take this willingness to stay in jail to arouse the dozing conscience of our nation,” King stated.

North Carolina has been the location of many historic moments that impacted the country, including the sit-ins in Greensboro, the founding of SNCC, and more recent political action such as the Moral Monday protests. The digital audio re-creation is a timely demonstration of social action where the community can experience the eloquence and force of MLK’s oratory and its enduring applicability for creative action through civil disobedience.

In addition to an audio model of the catalytic speech , the public can experience a multimedia archive, and resources for students and educators. The Project’s larger effort is to develop a 3D immersive, architectural model of the speech environment and an online environment for studying and experiencing the speech. For more information, please visit http://vmlk.chass.ncsu.edu.

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News 14, WRAL 5, and The Herald Sun cover the Virtual MLK Project

The publicity efforts for the June 8, 2014 reenactment held at White Rock Baptist Church in Durham led to international recognition of the event and larger Virtual MLK project by media outlets such as the the Associated Press, World News Network, Washington Times, and the Philadelphia Tribune. Additionally, publicity efforts led to significant local media coverage in the News and Observer, Herald-Sun, Charlotte Observer, Star News, Hendersonville Times-News, Fox Carolina News and many others. The event was also televised by reporters from WRAL-TV and Time Warner Cable News 14.

NCSU digital project to re-create MLK’s 1960 speech in Durham,” WRAL TV 5

MLK’s 1960 speech at White Rock Baptist, retold,” The Herald-Sun

Coverage of the “Fill Up the Jails” speech re-enactment, News 14

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