1957 September 2

Martin Luther King Speaks at Highlander Folk School

 

Dr. Martin Luther King spoke at the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee on this day, delivering a speech entitled, “A Look to the Future.” Highlander, founded in 1932, was a social activism center that addressed issues of race and poverty, focusing primarily on the South. Throughout its existence, Highlander was attacked by conservatives for its left-wing orientation. King’s appearance at Highlander on this date became important because photographs of him there were widely circulated for many years by segregationists and anti-Communists as “evidence” that he had attended at “communist training school” and had communist associations.

Highlander was attacked by local authorities for its alleged communist activities, of which there was never any evidence. On April 6, 1961, for example, it lost its state license to operate. Highlander relocated, survived, and continues to operate today.

The FBI, under J. Edgar Hoover, conducted a years-long effort to destroy King’s career as a civil rights leader. On December 23, 1963, the FBI decided on a plan to “neutralize” him as a leader. Hoover had persuaded Attorney General Robert Kennedy to authorize wiretaps on King on October 10, 1963, and on January 5, 1964, the FBI placed the first unauthorized “bug” (listening device) in a hotel room where King was staying. And most notoriously, on November 21, 1964, the FBI sent an anonymous letter and tape recording to both Kind and his wife with recordings purporting to show King engaged in extramarital sexual affairs.

Visit the Highlander Center web site: http://www.highlandercenter.org

Read about Myles Horton, Highlander Co-Founder: Dale Jacobs, ed., The Myles Horton Reader: Education for Social Change (2003)

Read the monumental Three-Volume biography of Dr. King by Taylor Branch: Parting the Waters (1988); Pillar of Fire (1998); At Canaan’s Edge (2006)

Visit the Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington, DC: http://www.nps.gov/mlkm/index.htm

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