The 1959 Raid on the Highlander Folk School

Jul 30, 2019

Rev. Martin Luther King, Pete Seeger, Charlis Horton, Rosa Parks, Rev. Ralph Abernathy, 1957. Highlander Research and Education Center.

This year is the 60th anniversary of a dark event in the history of the Highlander Research and Education Center. The social justice and community action training school was founded in 1932 as Highlander Folk School and its first home was in the small community of Summerfield in the mountains of Grundy County, Tennessee. In the 1950s, the center was vilified in the press for supposedly creating racial conflict and was accused of being a communist training school. In 1959, there was a raid on the property and a subsequent Tennessee Supreme Court ruling that forced Highlander Folk School to leave its Grundy County home. It is now based in Newmarket, Tennessee.

Over the years, the Highlander Center has played a major role in the Appalachian labor movement and in the American Civil Rights Movement, among many others. WUOT’s Chrissy Keuper spoke with Highlander’s co-directors, Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson and Allyn Maxfield-Steele, about the 1959 raid in Grundy County and the work that the center continues to do.