On April 17, 1944, a young Martin Luther King, Jr., made his first public speech as part of an oratorical contest at First African Baptist Church in Dublin. Plans are underway to commemorate this historic speech with a monument on the grounds of First African Baptist Church. The effort has garnered the support of the City of Dublin, the Georgia Council for the Arts, and the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) Tourism Division, along with many local organizations.
“Georgia Tourism is very excited about the scope of this project. Dublin-Laurens County is a forerunner in developing tourism product. We look forward to working with them to promote visitation to this jewel in the crown of the state’s African-American heritage,” said Beda Johnson, Tourism Division Director, GDEcD.
Building a Dream
Numerous grants have been submitted by Visit Dublin in partnership with the Dublin-Laurens Historical Society and the Dublin Downtown Development Authority to install the interactive Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. monument on the grounds of First African Baptist Church in addition to a child friendly water plaza in another downtown location honoring the achievements of fifteen nationally distinguished Dubliners of African American descent.
“This project is reflective of who Dublin and Laurens County is as a community. During the past four months, representatives of First African Baptist Church, Visit Dublin, Dublin-Laurens Historical Society, the City of Dublin, Dublin Downtown Development Authority, GDEcD, artists, and local businesses such as T. Lakes Environmental, have donated their time and resources to developing concepts for the memorials. This spirit of cooperation is reflective of Dr. King’s legacy as much as the planned memorials,” said Rebecca McWilliam, Director of Tourism, Visit Dublin.
“In true pioneering spirit of the Tuskegee Airmen, the thoughts and visions of a memorial wall commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s first public speech at the historical First African Baptist Church and the Tuskegee Memorial becoming a reality, is like the Tuskegee Airmen finally taking flight in Dublin-Laurens County,” stated Jerry Davis, City of Dublin councilman, Vice Chair of Visit Dublin, and member of First African Baptist Church.
Cultural and heritage tourism is one of the fastest growing segments of the tourism industry with over 78% of travelers participating in cultural activities during their vacations during to a 2009 study by US Travel.
“Dublin and Laurens County has a legacy of African American achievement and history that is unparalleled in all but the most major cities. Tuskegee Airmen, NASA scientists, Ford Motor Company inventors and innovators, and sports champions have all called Laurens County home. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., began his climb to the mountaintop when he gave his first public speech in downtown Dublin. Being faithful stewards of this legacy and sharing it with the world is a top priority for the Laurens County Historical Society,” said Jeff Davis, President, Laurens County Historical Society.
“These memorials are indicative of the deep, rich and lasting heritage of the African-American Community of Dublin and Laurens County, which is second to none for a community of our size in Georgia,” explained Scott Thompson, Director of the Dublin Laurens Museum – Cultural and Heritage Center.
“Our downtown would greatly benefit from the public art and pedestrian-friendly paths proposed in the grant application,” said Downtown Development Authority Director, Joshua Kight. “We are especially excited about the potential of these grants to redevelop the Madison Street and Church Street areas of downtown and connect them to our core business district. We’ll do everything we can to make these plans a reality.”
Walk with Us
In his I Have a Dream speech, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated,“We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.”
You can help make this dream reality. A fundraising campaign will kick off January 16th to support the overall projects’ construction and a website has been created at http://www.firstafricanbaptistdublinga.com.
Donations are currently being accepted through an online campaign at http://www.gofundme.com/k6r0bw. Donations can also be mailed payable to First African Baptist Church, Attention: MLK Monument, PO Box 311, Dublin, GA 31040.
For more information on the project, contact Rebecca McWillam of Visit Dublin at 478-272-4002, Maurice Sizer at First African Baptist Church at 478-275-7963, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.