Myles Horton: Ally, accomplice, disruptor

Today is the birthday of Myles Horton, who founded the Highlander Folk School (now called The Highlander Center) in Tenn. Still the site of training for organizers and activists of all ages, Highlander was heavily involved in labor rights organizing and in the the civil rights work in the 50’s and 60’s. The Highlander Folk School, among other things, was a place of respite and planning for Martin Luther King Jr., Septima Clark and Rosa Parks and others, and was also the site of voter registration training sessions for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee.

Police file on Myles Horton, Alabama Photographs and Pictures Collection, accessed at

If Myles Horton were alive today he would probably be called an ally, or–even more active–an “accomplice”. He surely was a disruptor and someone who knew what it meant to love his neighbor. He was not afraid to get in “good trouble”. He grew up in poverty in rural Tennessee, and while he was able to gain education in a traditional sense (completing an undergraduate degree at Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tn) he believed in the power of “problem posing education”, espoused by Paulo Freire. Like Freire, Myles Horton believed in the value of the relationship among teachers and learners. It is through relationship and engagement with each other and the world, along with critical thinking, that answers are found.

This is the kind of teaching and learning that changes us, and when I first learned about Horton (and Freire), I knew I had found “my” pedagogy.

This Bill Moyers interview with Myles Horton is long, but beautiful. I have shared sections of it with students in my community organizing class:

Here is the website for the Highlander Research and Education Center: where you can learn about its history as well as its current work and opportunities you can be a part of, whether it is you, your students, family, church group or others.

This is also a great resource, the SNCC Digital Gateway/ The whole site is great, but this specifically is a link to the page on Myles Horton:

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