Feast of Myles Horton (July 10)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Flag of the State of Tennessee

Image in the Public Domain

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MYLES FALLS HORTON (JULY 9, 1905-JANUARY 19, 1990)

“Father of the Civil Rights Movement”

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From my mother and father, I learned the idea of service and the value of education.  They taught me by their actions that you are supposed to serve your fellow men, you’re supposed to do something worthwhile with your life, and education is meant to help you do something for others.

–Myles Horton

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Myles Horton was a radical, by the standards of his time.  He was so radical that he dared to love like Jesus and confront institutionalized economic and racial structures of injustice.

Horton, born in Savannah, Tennessee, on July 9, 1905, grew up in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.  His parents were Elsie Falls and Perry Horton.  Our saint, who started working in factories as an adolescent, became a labor rights activist at an early age.  He went on to study at Cumberland University, Union Theological Seminary, and The University of Chicago before studying folk schools in Denmark while traveling in Europe.  Then Horton’s work kicked into high gear.

In 1932, with help from his former professor, Reinhold Niebuhr, who wrote a fund-raising letter, Horton opened the Highlander Folk School, then called the Southern Mountain School, at Monteagle, Tennessee.  At the folk school people learned job skills and labor organizing tactics.  Racial integration was also a reality at Highlander Folk School, which became deeply involved in the Civil Rights Movement.  Many Southern African Americans, including Rosa Parks, studied there.  Luminaries who taught at Highlander Folk School included Rosa Parks; Fannie Lou Hamer; Martin Luther King, Jr.; and Eleanor Roosevelt.  In the late 1950s, for example, Roosevelt was teaching civil disobedience tactics at the folk school.  She traveled in the company of another elderly woman, without armed guards, as members of the Ku Klux Klan sought to assassinate the former First Lady.

Horton and the Highlander Folk School became targets of harassment and violence.  In 1986 Horton told Sojourners magazine that he had suffered broken ribs, a broken collar bone, a skull fracture, the knocking out of teeth, the slashing of his arms, and incarceration.  The school became a target for various law enforcement agencies, the Ku Klux Klan, and other members of the paranoid and fearful far Right Wing who mistook racial integration for a communist plot.  U.S. Senator James O. Eastland of Mississippi attempted to close the school.  The State of Tennessee succeeded briefly in 1962, but Horton moved the school to Knoxville and reopened it as the Highlander Research and Education Center.  Since 1972 the school has been in New Market.

Horton, who retired as leader of the school in 1973, continued as an activist until he died of brain cancer at New Market on January 19, 1990.  He was 84 years old.

The website of the Highlander Research and Education Center identifies the school’s mission and tactics:

We work with people fighting for justice, equality, and sustainability, supporting their efforts to take collective action to shape their own destiny.

That remains radical in much of the U.S. society and body politic in 2018, unfortunately.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 10, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE ASCENSION

THE FEAST OF SAINT ENRICO RUBUSCHINI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND SERVANT OF THE SICK; AND HIS MENTOR, SAINT LUIGI GUANELLA, FOUNDER OF THE DAUGHTERS OF SAINT MARY OF PROVIDENCE, THE SERVANTS OF CHARITY, AND THE CONFRATERNITY OF SAINT JOSEPH

THE FEAST OF ANNA LAETITIA WARING, HUMANITARIAN AND HYMN WRITER; AND HER UNCLE, SAMUEL MILLER WARING, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVAN MERZ, CROATIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC INTELLECTUAL

THE FEAST OF JOHN GOSS, ANGLICAN CHURCH COMPOSER AND ORGANIST; AND WILLIAM MERCER, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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O God, your Son came among us to serve and not to be served,

and to give his life for the life of the world.

Lead us by his love to serve all those to whom the world offers no comfort and little help.

Through us give hope to the hopeless,

love to the unloved,

peace to the troubled,

and rest to the weary,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60

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