Horton, Myles, 1905-1990
- Existence: 1905 - 1990
Myles Falls Horton was born in 1905 in Savannah, Tenn., the son of Elsie Falls and Perry Horton. He attended Cumberland College in Tennessee, Union Theological Seminary in New York City and studied in Denmark.
Inspired by Danish folk high schools, Horton and Congregational minister Don West founded the Highlander Folk School in Grundy County, Monteagle, Tenn., in 1932. The Highlander school followed an unorthodox path to knowledge using education to inspire and empower ordinary people in the struggle for human rights and social justice. The Highlander school helped unionize southern textile workers and coal miners in the 1930s and 1940s, helped advance civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s, and helped change attitudes toward racial injustice and socio-economic equity. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rosa Parks were among the many influential people that attended workshops at Highlander.
The Highlander school and Myles Horton were seen to many as too radical and controversial. In 1961, the state of Tennessee closed the school, revoked its charter, and sold off the assets at auction. During this time, many of the buildings were burned by arsonists. Undaunted, Myles Horton redesignated the folk school as a research center under a new charter and moved from Monteagle to Knoxville, and then to the present location in New Market, Tenn., where it is now known as the Highlander Research and Education Center.
In 1935, Horton married Zilphia Johnson, a musician and social activist. They had two children, Thorsten and Charis. Zilphia Johnson died in 1956. Horton’s second marriage to Aimee Isgrig ended in divorce. Myles Horton died January 19, 1990.
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