Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Today we stepped back into history at our first official tour spot in Clinton, Tenn. and at the Highlander Research and Education Center. We also got our first view of the Appalachian Mountains in Tennessee.
We visited the Green McAdoo Cultural Center, which is the site of Clinton High School. In 1956, this high school was the first desegregated school in the south, even before the Little Rock Nine in 1957.
There were 12 students who were integrated into Clinton High School and the statue outside of the center commemorates them. The building is the original school, rebuilt after the bombing. Items like desks, typewriters and the principal’s briefcase are preserved in the museum.
The most interesting exhibit that caught our attention was the preservation of letters that various individuals and groups of people wrote to Rev. Paul Turner, a white Baptist minister, attacking him or commending him for supporting African Americans.
We then traveled to New Market, Tenn. to stay at the Highlander Research and Education Center, a center for civil rights issues and it still functions as a center for modern day issues like immigration rights and education.
Highlander was a beautiful center nestled on top of a small mountain with a gorgeous view of the valley and surrounding mountains. The center was formed in 1932 and had two previous locations in Tennessee and Kentucky before coming to New Market. The center is famous for training civil rights workers like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr.
We completed a total of three workshops focusing on Rosa Parks and her legacy, the Montgomery Bus Boycott and methods of organization that civil rights workers used.
Our hosts were Susan Williams and Kira Sims, both part of the education team. They were full of great discussion and ideas for group activities like skits. I think we all agreed that this was our favorite place so far because of the open-mindedness and inspiration of the discussions. We also got to sit in wooden rocking chairs, “a staple of southern cultural,” Williams said.
Most importantly, we learned about grassroots organizing methods like popular education and that was how the civil rights workers organized people together for events like the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
We also got our first taste of Southern food at Highlander. Tuesday night’s meal consisted of turkey and veggie meatballs, cornbread, and sweet tea. Wednesday morning’s breakfast meal included turkey sausage, eggs, veggie bacon, and grits. I’m not sure if any of us will be able to eat Midwestern food when we get back to Minnesota.
It was hard to leave Highlander, but eventually we got on the bus and are now heading for Birmingham, Ala.
(Author’s Note: I am terribly sorry for the slow updates, but on-the-road-Wi-fi and hotel Wi-fi is not the best).