N.C. Town Debates Over Look of King Statue

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It started as a laudable idea: build a park and raise a sculpture in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. at the site where he first told an audience, "I have a dream."

Only city leaders and two sculptors have been unable to satisfy the community's collective memory of what the civil rights leader looked like, even though King was among the most famous people of the 20th century.

"How you perceive a person, especially a person such as Dr. King, depends on at what point in time and at what era in his life and in what medium you actually met him - if you met him as a minister in a church, if you met him as an activist on the street, or if he was sitting in a restaurant or at your dinner table," city council member Lamont Wiggins said.

A city block-sized memorial park anchored by a sculpture of King was proposed several years ago in Rocky Mount. The city of 56,000 about an hour east of Raleigh has long prided itself on its association with King.

On Nov. 27, 1962, the civil rights leader addressed 2,000 people in the gym of Booker T. Washington High School, first using the now-famous words he rephrased the following August in his speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington.

"And so, my friends of Rocky Mount, I have a dream tonight," he said. "That one day, right here in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will meet at the table of brotherhood."

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