Here is a little known fact of American history. Monteagle, Tennessee could be called the cradle of the Civil Rights Movement. Before the Civil Rights Movement began, Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph Abernathy, Rosa Parks and many other future leaders of the Movement were trained in non-violent action at Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tennessee. The school was founded and led by Myles Horton, a white Tennessean. One of the main instructors was an African American woman, Septima Clark.
Horton suffered much persecution for his bold stand for liberty and justice for all in the days of Jim Crow racism in Tennessee. In 1960 his school, home, and land were seized by the State of Tennessee and he was forced to move out of Monteagle.
I first learned about Horton a few years ago when a street in Nashville was named for Rosa Parks. Someone wrote a column in The Tennessean and said that a street should be named for the Tennessean who helped train Rosa Parks, Myles Horton. I was moved to hear about such an American hero who was hated by many in his day and is almost unknown nowadays.
Once my wife and I were driving to Chattanooga from Nashville. We stopped in Monteagle to have lunch with some friends. I was thinking that I wish I could find the building where Highlander Folk School had been located. I had been in Monteagle several times but had never found anyone who knew anything about it. We were about an hour early for lunch so we decided to drive around the Monteagle Assembly. Before we went through the gate, I felt led to ask the woman working there if she knew where Highlander Folk School had been located. She said: “I live right across the road from it.” Then she gave us directions.
As we drove down a one lane country road we finally saw a sign that read “Old Highlander Road.” We turned left and then we found the building, now a private residence, where First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt once spoke, where Pete Seeger sang, and where many of America’s Civil Rights leaders were trained.
There is nothing to mark this spot in Tennessee that was so influential in bringing about a freer America. However, the vision, the humility, and the greatness that came together there, although mainly unknown or forgotten, rang in my heart as a saw the building that had helped a movement.
Read some of Dr. King’s bold and politically incorrect statements by clicking here.
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