JULY 9, 1905

Painting of Myles Horton, founder of the Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tennessee, by Robert Shetterly. Credit: Courtesy of Americans Who Tell the Truth

Civil rights leader Myles Horton, whom some called “The Father of the Civil Rights Movement,” was born. 

Born to a poor family, he saw the value of organizing while working at a sawmill and similar jobs. As a teenager, he became involved in a strike for higher wages while working at a tomato factory. 

In 1932, he founded the Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tennessee, to bring together people, white and black, to discuss ideas, problems and possible solutions. 

“If people have a position on it and you try to argue them into changing it, you’re going to strengthen that position,” he explained. “If you want to change people’s ideas, you shouldn’t try to change them intellectually. What you need to do is get them into a situation where they act on ideas, not argue about them.” 

Highlander became a center for training those in the civil rights movement, including Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, James Bevel, Bernard Lafayette and Ralph Abernathy. 

In 1961, the state of Tennessee shut down the school and seized its land. Highlander officials moved the school from Monteagle to Knoxville. Before his death in 1990, he inspired the founding of the Myles Horton Organization at the University of Tennessee, which organized protests of the Ku Klux Klan and encouraged the university to divest from South Africa.

More on this day


Something went wrong. Please refresh the page and/or try again.

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

The stories of investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell have helped put four Klansmen and a serial killer behind bars. His stories have also helped free two people from death row, exposed injustices and corruption, prompting investigations and reforms as well as the firings of boards and officials. He is a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a longtime member of Investigative Reporters & Editors, and a winner of more than 30 other national awards, including a $500,000 MacArthur “genius” grant. After working for three decades for the statewide Clarion-Ledger, Mitchell left in 2019 and founded the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting.