Geoffrey Jones
Days Gone By

The central characteristic of this kind of person is that they make changes, big ones, and almost always for the better. They are the “Beginners” Walt Whitman wrote about. They create new beginnings to rescue humanity from the negativity and regimentation we fall into over the centuries. We are very familiar with them and the force they have been in our lives. For some of us perhaps a bit too familiar, in the sense that new movements have sprung up to diminish the heroes of our earlier history. To cut them down to size, as it were. But they will survive these onslaughts. They always do.

Here in Tennessee we have a stellar example in the work of Miles and Zilphia Horton, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and the history of the Highlander Folk School in Monteagle during the 1950s. 

The “Highlander Folk School” had been set up in the 1930s by Myles Horton and his wife Zilphia. The school was modeled after schools in Denmark where advanced programs of social change were taught. Highlander focused on racial equality and human cooperation. The McCarthy era during which the term Communist or pinko was applied to anyone who urged for racial equality and worker’s rights, was in full swing. The school was painted in the media by some as simply a “Communist training camp.” Even with all the efforts to besmirch the school’s reputation, meeting took place involving the Horton’s, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Pete Seeger and others that led to the solidification of the civil rights movement, the incorporation of “We shall overcome” as the movements anthem, and in time the movement flowering fully in the massive march on Washington . The story of the synergy impelled by this group is a major chapter in American and world history. And it took form here on Monteagle mountain.

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