north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program



Marker Text:

     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.

Drew Hansen, The Dream: MLK Jr. and the Speech That Inspired a Nation (2003)
Transcript of November 27, 1962, speech taken from audiotape, copy of transcript in marker files, Research Branch, North Carolina Office of Archives and History
Rocky Mount Telegram, November 28, 1962 and January 14, 2001
(Raleigh) The Carolinian, December 8, 1962
E-mail from Clayborne Carson, Director, King Papers, to Pete Armstrong, September 27, 2005, copy in marker files, Research Branch, North Carolina Office of Archives and History
Jeffrey J. Crow, Paul D. Escott, and Flora J. Hatley, eds., A History of African Americans in North Carolina (2002)
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north carolina highway historical marker program

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