Visiting the Highlander Center with my social movements class

What better way to bring social movements to life than with a visit to the Highlander Research and Education Center in New Market, TN with my Collective Behavior & Social Movements class. Rich in movement history and social activism, the Highlander Center has seen the likes of Paulo Freire, Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and countless others working for justice since its 1932 founding by Myles Horton.

Central to the training and empowerment of Highlander over the years has been music rooted in Appalachia, including most famously the civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome.” Sociologist William Roy captures the political power of music at Highlander and elsewhere in his recent book Reds, Whites, and Blues: Social Movements, Folk Music, and Race in the United States.

Though we didn’t get to sing along with legacy songsters Guy and Candie Carawan this time (as my previous classes have done), our workshop participation, tour, and picnic in the beautiful hills of East Tennessee provided ample space for reflection upon popular education, organizing, movement building, and the history of social change.

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