By Donna Thornton/News Editor
Gadsden City Councilman Robert Avery’s message to second graders at Floyd Elementary School Feb. 18 was a simple one: History is being made every day, and they should be mindful of what is going on in the world so they can recognize and remember their part in history.
As part of Black History Month, Avery came to Floyd to tell students about days when he was involved in historic events without realizing how significant those events would be.
Avery asked students about the people they were studying about during Black History Month. They responded with a list of names: Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Jackie Robinson, George Washington Carver and others.
Avery told them he’d met some of those people they’d learned about, namely King, Parks and Robinson.
He asked if they’d seen pictures of King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” in Washington, D.C.
“I was there,” Avery told them. “Those signs people were holding. I helped make them,” he said.
“When I was participating in the march and Dr. King made his speech, I didn’t realize the historical significance of that event,” he said. “I didn’t know people would be talking about it and studying it 50 years later.”
Avery explained he was active in the Civil Rights Movement, and he and two other friends hitchhiked to the capitol for the March on Washington in 1963. Avery, at 15, was the youngest of the trio. On Saturday before the march, Avery recalled, he and his friends were helping with signs. They were in a big building, he said, and King came in, surrounded by reporters.
King had been to Gadsden a few times during the Civil Rights movement. Avery had not met King during those visits, but his parents had. When Avery and his friends went to Washington, Avery’s parents asked King to check on them.
Because of his parents’ request, and King’s willingness to honor it, Avery met the Civil Rights leader before he gave what was his most famous speech.
“I will never forget that I had the opportunity to talk to Dr. King,” Avery said. “I didn’t recognize the significance of it then.”
For that reason, he told students they should be aware of what’s going on. “Someday you could be standing in front of a crowd of people telling them about a historic event,” Avery said. “History just happens.”