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The vMLK project provides an exemplar of the intersection between black history, rhetorical studies, and digital humanities. It is of interest to scholars, students, and citizens who wish to test, critique and reconsider assumptions about the historical connection between instances of public address and social transformation surrounding issues of race, particularly the affordances and constraints of the material, spatial contexts in which public address is experienced.
The vMLK project involves the development of a fully immersive digital experience of Dr. King’s 1960 Fill Up the Jails (A Creative Protest) speech given in Durham, NC just days after the start of the Greensboro sit-ins. The goal of the project is to enable visitors to see and hear what the speech was like from different locations and distances within the sanctuary. Visitors will be able to stand, sit, and move around the architecturally accurate digitally rendered recreation the of Old White Rock Baptist Church sanctuary. They’ll be immersed in King’s speech, experiencing it much as a child in the church balcony or an elderly woman in the front row, yet simultaneously situated in the current historical moment.
Questions that the project brings to the fore for participants consideration include: How does the use of digital technologies to re-create or create anew an experience of black history/public address change or shape our knowledge about it? To what extent can an augmented or on-line/gaming simulation capture the uniqueness, immediacy and interactivity of public address? What can we learn from this project about the role of public address and practices of commemoration in social and civic transformation?