Horton was the founder and director of the Highlander Folk School, an important training center for labor and civil rights activists.1 Rosa Parks had attended a Highlander workshop on school integration in August 1955, four months before her defiance of bus segregation ignited the Montgomery bus boycott.
Rev. M. L. King
Montgomery Improvement Association
Dear Mr. King:
It was my privilege recently to speak with Mrs. Rosa Parks at the Church of the Master in New York. There was an offering of $103.63 to be devided between Highlander and the Montgomery Improvement Association. I am enclosing a check for $52.00.
While in New York, I had the opportunity to talk with many people about the wonderful job you folks are doing there. I can’t remember when I’ve been so proud of any activity on the part of my fellow Southerners.
No doubt Rosa will tell you about some of the greetings she was asked to convey. You will be interested in the enclosed statement from Mrs. Roosevelt’s column following our visit in her apartment.2
I had hoped by now to have met you. I had dinner with John Thompson in Chicago the day after you spoke in the Chapel there.3 We hope you will get to Highlander sometime.
1. Myles Horton (1905-1990). born in Savannah, Tennessee, graduated from Cumberland Presbyterian College in 1928 and studied at Union Theological Seminary in New York before founding Highlander in 1932. When postwar anticommunist sentiment caused some unions to sever their ties with the school, Horton and his co-workers, including Septima Clark, focused their organizing and educational work on the southern freedom struggle. After a long fight, Tennessee officials closed the school in 1961. Transferring its citizenship education program to King and SCLC, the institution was reborn the same year in New Market, Tennessee, as the Highlander Research and Education Center.
2. Eleanor Roosevelt reported on meeting with Parks in her 14 May 1956 syndicated newspaper column. Describing Parks as “a very quiet, gentle person,” Roosevelt thought it “difficult to imagine how she could ever take such a positive and independent stand.” Parks’s passive resistance, she wrote, may “save us from war and bloodshed and teach those of us who have to learn that there is a point beyond which human beings will not continue to bear injustice” (David Elmbridge, ed., Eleanor Roosevelt’s “My Day,” vol. 3: First Lady of the World [New York: Phonos Books, 1991, p. 99).
3. After studying with Reinhold Niebuhr at Union Theological Seminary, John B. Thompson went to the newly founded Highlander Folk School in 1933 to teach a seminar on religion and social change. Thompson served as dean of Rockefeller Memorial Chapel at the University of Chicago (1948-1958), where King spoke on 13 April 1956. When King delivered a keynote address on 2 September 1957 at Highlander’s twenty-fifth anniversary, Thompson directed a seminar on southern integration.
MLKP-MBU, Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers, 1954-1968, Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, Boston University, Boston, Mass.