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 home >> Civil Rights History Project >> Survey of Collections and Repositories >> Collections >> Collection Record

The Civil Rights History Project: Survey of Collections and Repositories

Highlander Research and Education Center records

Repository: Wisconsin Historical Society. Library-Archives

Collection Description (CRHP): The extensive audio and video recordings in the Highlander Records capture meetings, workshops, speeches, song sessions, poetry readings, lectures, discussions, and interviews. Some publicity tapes and broadcast materials are included, but most tapes are records of discussion and debate about the goals and strategies of the civil rights movement. Many of the sound recordings are from the 1950s. Discussion of Highlander's adult literacy and voter education (Citizenship School) programs are well represented in this collection, especially with regard to the Sea Islands (particularly Edisto Island and Johns Island). Recordings of workshops with college students, labor and church leaders, literacy teachers, beauticians, and youth leaders are also included. Many especially interesting tapes on general civil rights topics are filed under "Miscellaneous."
The tapes give a sense of international and interracial civil rights alliances: U.N. workshops and discussions of strategies used in Sweden, Germany, and Mexico are included in this collection, and the role of white people in the movement is repeatedly addressed. Other prominent topics include non-violent direct action (e.g., Montgomery bus boycott, Nashville student sit-ins, Orangeburg (SC) Boycott), voter registration, the Black Muslim movement, church integration, and public school integration (e.g., 1953 reports of school integration in Illinois; Washington, D.C.; and Oak Ridge, Tennessee). A number of interviews and reminiscences from the mid-1950s recall experiences with segregation in places like Elloree, SC; Winston-Salem, NC; Moscow, TN; Georgia; and Florida.
The collection also covers opposition to the movement. It includes a taped interview (circa 1955) with Micah Jenkins, chairman of the [White] Citizens' Council of Charleston, SC; speeches from a Southern Regional White Citizens' Council Meeting (New Orleans, May 1956); and tape of high-ranking Klansmen speaking at a KKK meeting in Birmingham, Alabama (May 1963). The collection also includes several interviews with Buford Posey, as well as recorded "Satires on the Southern Way of Life" and a 1957 speech by Martin Luther King, Jr., at Highlander's 25th anniversary celebration in which King talks about the Ku Klux Klan and White Citizens' Councils' opposition to integration.

Collection Description (Extant): Records of an adult education center and its predecessor, the Highlander Folk School, documenting its labor, civil rights, and Appalachian poverty programs and workshops and the harassment of the Highlander by government agencies. Files include correspondence, minutes, annual reports, financial records, workshop materials, legal papers, play scripts, song books, clippings, speeches, writings, publications, and tape recordings. Intended as a workers' education school and community center, the Highlander Folk School was founded in 1932 near Monteagle, Tennessee, by Myles Horton and Don West. [. . . .] Following the withdrawal of CIO support in 1949 because of alleged communist influence at Highlander, the School became involved with the civil rights movement in the South. Under the leadership of Esau Jenkins and Septima Clark, Highlander developed programs for training local black community leaders. From 1958 to 1965 citizenship programs and voter registration efforts were important Highlander activities. Beginning in 1965, however, civil rights work was deemphasized, and Highlander turned to contemporary problems of Appalachia, including poverty, strip mining, misuse of land and natural resources, and a lack of political organization.
[ . . . ] The numerous tape recordings in the collection concern executive council meetings; letters dictated by Myles Horton; addresses and speeches; the Appalachian project; attacks on and investigations of Highlander, including the court hearings at Altamont, Tennessee; citizenship and community leadership programs; the Farmers Union; fund raising; the Harlan, Kentucky, coal strike; Koinonia Farm; labor workshops; music and poetry; recordings from the film "Highlander Story '53"; workshops; desegregation; leadership training; and voter registration.

Date(s): 1917-1999

Digital Status: No

Existing IDs: OCLC 549; WIHVH2290-A; Mss 265; Tape 515A; Tape 807A; Micro 795; Micro 846

Extent: 37.0 c.f. (104 archives boxes); 50 reels of microfilm (35mm); 258 tape recordings; plus additions of 94.1 c.f., 1638 tape recordings; 3 disc recordings; 0.2 c.f. of photographs; 1554 additional photographs; 20 negatives; 20 transparencies; 29 film reels

Finding Aid URL: External Link

Language: English

Related Archival Items: Collections on Highlander are also available at the Tennessee State Library and Archives. The University of the South's Archives and Special Collections also has a small, partially processed collection on the Highlander Folk School.

Interviewees: Myles Horton, Septima Clark, Aimee Horton, Guy Carawan, Candy Carawan, May Justus, Rosa Parks, George Mitchell, Wilson Linsley, Esau Jenkins, Larry Atkins, Alice Cobb, Dorcas Ruthenburg, Allene Brewer, Rev. Reddick, Mr. and Mrs. Lassiter, Wyatt Walker, Mr. Mack, Bernice Robinson, Dorothy Cotton, Buford Posey, Frank Adams, Jack Minnis, B. Lloyd, Robbie Fichman, John Thompson, Irene Osborne, Ted Brameld, Tom Dunigan, John B. Thompson, Herman Long, Fred Routh, James E. Pierce, Robert Graetz, Lewis Jones, Don Fessler, Lillian Robinson, Ruth Griffin, Hosea Williams, James Jones, John Hodges, Bob Moses, Susie Williams, Carolyn Redd, Robert Talbert, Minnie McCoy, Willie Mae Foster, Carnell Lowe, Bobbie Robinson, Alice Peck, Remlie Johnson, Amzie Moore, C. T. Vivian, C. L. Jordan, Dick Gregory

Rights (Extant): Permission to quote from the papers of any person still living must be obtained from that person; all literary property rights are retained by the Highlander Research and Education Center.


African Americans--Education--South Carolina
Civil rights demonstrations
Civil rights workers
Civil rights--Religious aspects--Christianity
Highlander Folk School (Monteagle, Tenn.)
Highlander Research and Education Center (Knoxville, Tenn.)
Interracial friendship
Montgomery Bus Boycott, Montgomery, Ala., 1955
Political persecution
Protest songs
Segregation in education
Voter registration
White supremacy movements


Sound recordings


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   September 26, 2018
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