Highlander Research and Education Center

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Template:TOCnestleft The Highlander Research and Education Center, previously known as the Highlander Folk School is based in Tennessee.

It is closely associated with Liberation Road.


The Highlander Folk School is alleged to have communist affiliations, teachings and personnel.

"In 1932, Myles Horton, Don West, James Dombrowski and others founded the Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tennessee. They focused first on organizing unemployed and working people, and by the late 1930s Highlander was serving as the de-facto CIO education center for the region, training union organizers and leaders in 11 southern states. During this period, Highlander also fought segregation in the labor movement, holding its first integrated workshop in 1944.

Highlander’s commitment to ending segregation made it a critically important incubator of the Civil Rights movement. Workshops and training sessions at Highlander helped lay the groundwork for many of the movement’s most important initiatives, including the Montgomery bus boycott, the Citizenship Schools, and the founding of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. In 1961, after years of red-baiting and several government investigations, the state of Tennessee revoked Highlander’s charter and seized its land and buildings. The school reopened the next day as the Highlander Research and Education Center. From 1961-1971, it was based in Knoxville, and in 1972 it moved to its current location near New Market, Tennessee.

In the late 1960s and 1970s, Highlander played a vital role fostering organizing in Appalachia, supporting anti-strip mining and worker health and safety struggles, among other efforts. In the 1980s and 1990s, Highlander expanded its work to support grassroots groups fighting pollution and toxic dumping, and supported the emerging anti-globalization movement by sponsoring workshops on economic human rights and trade and globalization issues and by forging connections with international activists and organizers. In January 1990, Myles Horton died of brain cancer.

Today, Highlander is continuing to fight for justice and equality, supporting organizing and leadership development among Latino immigrants and young people, encouraging the use of culture to enhance social justice efforts, and helping organizations in diverse constituencies develop new strategies and alliances." [1]

Recipient of Open Society Funding

Open Society Foundations Logo

Highlander Research and Education Center received a grant from the Open Society Foundation's Communities Against Hate initiative, which "supports organizations that are grappling with the spike in hate incidents in the United States over the last several months" as explained by a white paper dated June 22 2017.[2]

It continues:

"Our local grants, which range from $15,000 to $150,000, aim to support, protect, and empower those who are targets of hateful acts and rhetoric, and to bolster communities’ resilience and ability to prevent such incidents from occurring in the future. We are making grants on a rolling basis, and there are a few more in process. A complete list will be published on the Open Society Foundations website when all of the grants have been issued."

Notable Personnel

The following have worked for, attended as students, or been affiliated with the school:[3]

Staff, 2021

Staff, 2015


2021 Board members

2017 Board members

2016 Board members



2015 Board members



2014 Board members



New leadership

In December 2016, the Board of Directors and staff were pleased to announce that Ash-Lee Henderson and Rev. Allyn Maxfield-Steele will serve as Highlander Research and Education Center’s Co-Executive Directors.

“The selection of Ash-Lee and Allyn demonstrates Highlander’s commitment to supporting the next generation of organizational leaders critical to our movements,” said Interim Board Chair Meizhu Lui. “We feel that they are the right ones to guide us through political terrain where visionary, righteous, courageous, class-conscious, multiracial, and multi-gender leadership is desperately needed.”

Following Pam McMichael’s decision to transition out of the ED role after twelve years of dedicated and remarkable service, Highlander established a Transition Team of three board members and two staff to guide the ED search process. Ash-Lee received encouragement from movement friends and mentors to apply for the position, after which she invited Allyn to apply with her as co-directors.

Their proposal captured the imagination of the Transition Team and was well received by both board and staff. As sitting board members, Ash and Allyn recused themselves from all parts of the selection process following their application. At the November Board meeting, they underwent an extensive interview process with the Board and staff. As of this week, Ash and Allyn have begun the transition process alongside outgoing Executive Director Pam McMichael and staff, and they will assume full-time responsibilities in February 2017.[10]

External links