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Myles Horton and the Highlander Folk School

May 2nd, 2011 by Graham Attwell


I was talking with Cristina Costa this morning about some of our ideas for the Radioactive project (more to come on this soon) and she asked me if I have read anything by Myles Horton. To my regret I have not and intend to remedy that later this week. In the meantime here is a short video about Myles Horton and his work and an excerpt from Wikipedia:

“A poor white man from Savannah in West Tennessee, Horton’s social and political views were strongly influenced by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, under whom he studied at the Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Along with educator Don West and Methodist minister James A. Dombrowski of New Orleans, Horton founded the Highlander Folk School (now Highlander Research and Education Center) in his native Tennessee in 1932. He remained its director until 1973, traveling with it to reorganize in Knoxville after the state shut it down in 1961.

Horton and West had both traveled to Denmark to study its folk schools, centers for adult education and community empowerment. The resulting school in Monteagle, Tennessee was based on a concept originating in Denmark: “that an oppressed people collectively hold strategies for liberation that are lost to its individuals . . . The Highlander School had been a haven for the South’s handful of functional radicals during the thirties and the essential alma mater for the leaders of the CIO‘s fledgling southern organizing drives.” (McWhorter) The school was created to educate and empower adults for social change.

In their 1985 documentary You Got to Move, Lucy Massie Phenix and Veronica Selver prominently featured Horton and the Highlander School. Horton also inspired the founding of the Myles Horton Organization at the University of Tennessee in 1986. The group organized numerous protests and events in the Chattanooga, Tennessee area, including demonstrations to counter the Ku Klux Klan, and the construction of a shantytown on campus to encourage the university to divest from South Africa.”

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