Saturday, January 9, 2010

A School for Subversives

It’s back to school time. How would you like to have attended the same school that Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Martin Luther King Jr., Andrew Young, and Fanny Lou Hamer all attended?

That would be Highlander Folk School, near Monteagle, TN, for many years the only place in the South where white and African-American adults could live and work together, something that was illegal in that strictly segregated society. The 1950s brought Highlander to national attention, as civil rights legends and social activists learned the ways of non-violent protest there in the school’s “Citizenship School Program.” Rosa Parks’ participation in a Highlander workshop in the summer of 1955, 5 months before her back of the bus incident, had a crucial influence on her. And during the subsequent Montgomery bus boycott, Highlander co-founder Myles Falls Horton introduced Rosa Parks to Eleanor Roosevelt as “the first lady of the South.”

To continue reading: Click Here.

Note: This is another entry from Dave Tabler's always outstanding Appalachian History blog, and a very interesting one it is, too. However, I feel compelled to point out that saying that it was illegal for blacks and whites to work and live together in the segregated South is not strictly true. If it were, the Highlander Folk School would have been easily closed by the state. And to cite a personal example, I saw my own grandparents work side by side with blacks during the 1950s in Arkansas. None the less, what was going on at the Highlander Folk School at that time was unprecedented in the segregated, post-Reconstruction South, and to no small extent in the North as well, the de facto segregation of the North being just as corrosive and almost as pervasive as the de jure segregation of the South; and certainly the Highlander Folk School's activities were not appreciated by white supremacists North and South.

1 comment:

  1. Dennis, you're right on the legality issue. I've gone back and changed the article copy to reflect that more clearly. Thanks for clarifying!