Forsyth County Day School eighth graders took a trip to Greensboro on April 26 to visit the International Civil Rights Center & Museum.
John Allen, the school’s student outreach coordinator and girls’ basketball coach, put the students in the right frame of mind before the trip by sharing his eyewitness account of one of the most transformative events of the 20th century: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s delivery of his “I Have a Dream” speech at the Aug. 28, 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
In his Powerpoint presentation, “The March to Freedom: a View Through the Eyes of an Uninformed Child,” Allen detailed his childhood in Chicago. He was shielded from the ugliness of racism by his family, most of whom were educators. That changed when his mother decided to take him to the Washington march.
On the trip, the driver took an unscheduled Southern route from Chicago to D.C., and Allen had his first taste of segregation. He went to get a drink from a water fountain, only to be stopped by another traveller who directed him to use “a hose sitting in the mud.”
“That’s what I was supposed to drink from,” he said. “What type of sense does that make? What type of world have I gotten into?” he wondered.
Allen was uninformed and disinterested in the march. In fact, he wanted to stay home to play a Little League game. Dozens of speakers addressed the thousands of marchers before Dr. King made his way to the microphone.
“We had heard 50 other people, so I hoped he would be more impressive,” Allen recalled.
King didn’t disappoint, and even the young Allen was impressed.
“People were so moved,” Allen said. “Even a 12-year-old could understand about dreams.”
Allen told the students to emulate Dr. King by daring to take a stand and stand up for what is right.
“One person thinking differently will make an impact,” he said. “If one person thinks, ‘I’m going to stand up to defeat any type of injustice,’ I’m good.”
The students were impressed with Allen and his message.
“It was really moving,” Markey Battle said. “It was moving to me to see how innocent [Mr. Allen] was about what was going on. He lived it and it was amazing.”