Civil Rights and Protests

Race Riots

How was the Highlander Folk School involved in civil rights activities?

In 1932 Myles Horton and Don West established the Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tennessee, as a community school with a Danish tradition. The school worked with trade unions but changed its focus in the 1950s when it shifted its efforts to the civil rights struggle. In 1952 Septima Poinsette Clark (1898–1987), known for her untiring efforts to promote her race, began her affiliation with the school by attending interracial institutes during two summers. Highlander became the educational center of the Civil Rights Movement during the 1950s and early 1960s. Both Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. attended the Highlander workshops before participating in the Montgomery demonstrations. Clark took over the school’s literacy work in 1959, after Tennessee began its efforts to close the school. After repeated harassment from state and federal agents who claimed it had Communist affiliations and alleged other violations, in 1962 the state of Tennessee revoked the school’s charter and confiscated its property. Then a new institution with essentially the same goals was chartered: The Highlander Research and Education Center. The center was briefly located in Knoxville and later moved to New Market, Tennessee, where it continues to support civil rights.


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