Highlander Folk School was an adult education center founded in 1932 that brought together many labor and civil rights activists including Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr, and Pete Seeger. The original site of Highlander was located near Monteagle, Tennessee and included a spring fed pond which was made by Highlander participants. On September 2, 1957, Martin Luther King Jr. gave a speech at Highlander called “A Look to the Future.” During this Labor Day event, people took part in many integrated cultural activities including dancing, dining, swimming in the pond, and drinking from the spring. In his speech, King stated:
“I have been asked to speak from the subject: “A Look to the Future.” In order to look to the future, it is often necessary to get a clear picture of the past. In order to know where we are going, it is often necessary to see from whence we have come.”
Molly Sherman, Nolan Calisch and I (as part of our collaboration Public Doors and Windows) collected 25 gallons of the spring water from the original Highlander site and make it available to museum goers through a water dispenser that is set up in the Flex-it exhibition. Alongside the water dispenser there was a stack of newspapers we create that provide information about the pond, Highlander and it’s cultural and recreational activities. Museum goers will be invited to taste the spring water that Myles Horton, Martin Luther King Jr, and Rosa Parks would have consumed and reflect on Highlander’s influence on the the social and cultural history of Tennessee.