Lower and Middle School students were honored to welcome Reverend Henry "Hank" Elkins to their campuses this Monday to reflect on the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Elkins was a key contributor during an early phase of the civil rights movement in America, having the great fortune to serve as assistant pastor for Dr. Martin Luther King in 1962 in Atlanta where he lived with the King family. Elkins' direct experience has given him a special personal perspective on the civil rights movement and the life of Dr. King.
In separate visits to both the Lower and Middle School, Elkins spoke about his experiences and answered questions from students. On the Lower School, several thoughtful inquiries from students set the tone for impactful discussion. "Was it challenging being a white person who supported Dr. King?" asked one student.
"Being a white supporter and friend of Dr. King's had it challenges," Ellis recalled. "Most people didn't like what I was doing, only my parents really supported me." Ellis recounted having to help buy food when Dr. King and his associates couldn't gain access to certain stores and restaurants, and he described a scary incident of having dinner at Dr. King's house one evening when fire bombs were thrown at the house.
"When Dr. King died, I lost a great friend, but the country lost a great leader," Ellis said. "He stood for so many good things. Not just equal rights...if he were alive today, I know he would be fighting for a green planet and against climate change as well. In a sense, I pretend that Dr. King is still with is today."
Elkins closed his visit by leading students in soulful rendition of "We Shall Overcome." With eyes closed and head raised, his steady voice echoed around the Lower School community room, leaving students to ponder his words.
"We can't stop until every mountain of injustice is leveled."
Elkins' visit was organized through his son, Brent Elkins, the father of Jake '20 and Andy Elkins '19.