MLK and Tar Heel Boys' State

I attended the American Legion Tar Heel Boys' State in the summer of 1997.  From the organization's website:

Tar Heel Boys’ State is a leadership action program. Qualified male North Carolina high school rising seniors take part in a practical government course designed to develop a working knowledge of the structure of the government. It is the aim of the program to impress the young citizens with the fact that the government is just what they make it.

At least that was their purpose.  Boys' State really just a weeklong rodeo of 16 year-old boys from all over NC terrorizing each other and the Wake Forest campus...with a smattering mock-government/educational events we had to attend.  As I recall, it was tons of fun for the most part.

I have no idea how it happened, but racial tension became a big problem toward the end of the week.  My hunch is that a vocal, inbred, redneck faction didn't like that the elected "president" of Boy's State was an African American.

Regardless, I had no idea that anything was going on until one of the adult leader's brought it up during one of our all-camp meetings.  The man said that we weren't the first camp to have issues with race...and that we would find the night's speaker to be extremely relevant.

Evidently, it was a tradition of sorts that one of the counselors - a middle-aged, African American preacher - deliver Martin Luther King, Jr's "I Have a Dream Speech".  I can't remember the gentleman's name, but I remember his face and his booming, Southern voice.  He recited the entire speech from memory.

I wept and so did everyone around me.