A Special Announcement from Highlander's Board of Directors

Greetings, Highlander Friends and Family,

Our beloved Executive Director, Pam McMichael, has notified the Board of Directors and staff of her decision to transition out of that role as of December 31st, 2016. She leaves us to enter a new season of her long and powerful work in movements for justice.



After eleven-plus years of her tireless, skillful and visionary leadership, Pam’s decision is heavy to receive and heavy to share. It is hard for us to imagine what Highlander will be like when she is no longer sitting in a rocking chair in circle with us. She certainly “rocked” Highlander!


As she told us of her decision, she said excitement and sadness were running along-side each other. We feel the same. Our hearts are full with love and admiration for Pam’s service to Highlander’s role in the movement, and we will miss her. At the same time, we feel excitement for her and look forward to other ways of working together.


We want Highlander friends and family to know that Pam arrived at her decision after a thoughtful period of discernment, and we deeply appreciate her integrity, wisdom and loving consideration for Highlander.


From Pam:


“I can’t begin to express how profoundly grateful I am for the honor to have served the people’s movement as Highlander’s  E.D. over these past years, to connect with so many amazing justice makers from all walks of life, to serve with such incredible staff and board, and to witness the many manifestations of generosity that keep Highlander going.


I am always a social justice person, and will always be a Highlander person – still it is time for me to create space for other things in my life, including writing, and time to move over and create space for new leadership at Highlander.


I am confident in Highlander’s Board and staff and confident in a bright future for Highlander. I look forward to the new leadership and Highlander’s next steps.”


Rooted in our legacy, who we are and where we come from, and the power of our current work, we too feel excitement and hope for Highlander and its future. Pam’s shoulders are among 84 years-worth of movement builders and freedom fighters upon which Highlander stands, and Highlander’s family is bold and strong.


A transition team, composed of Board and staff, will design and guide the transition’s processes, which includes the recruitment of new leadership. Until an announcement is made, please be thinking of people from the work whose own discernment might lead them to Highlander.


For all that she has done for and with Highlander, we invite you to join us as we celebrate Pam’s leadership during Homecoming, our annual movement building gathering, September 16-18th. And stay tuned for other events and opportunities to honor Pam and celebrate her leadership and legacy.


In peace, solidarity, and love, and with appreciation for your help and support in the next step of this long haul journey,


Highlander Board of Directors: Allyn Maxfield-Steele, Chair; Ash-Lee Henderson, Carly Hare, Ed Whitfield, Erica Smiley, English Fields, Hollis Watkins, Maggie West, Margo Okazawa-Rey, Meizhu Lui, Meta Mendel Reyes, Monica Simpson, Ngoc Loan Tran, Nikki Baena, Patricia St. Onge, Recaredo Fernandez, Roy Silver, Susan Wefilld, Tamieka Atkins, Yeshimabeit Milner


Highlander Board and staff members with Pam at our April board meeting.


Winter Solstice & Holiday Party December with Mike Garant 18th from 5:30 – 8 PM




Garant graces Highlander bearing never before heard stories of his great uncle, Myles Horton. He has been teaching at Helsinki, Finland since 1996 and travels as a visiting professor at institutions all over the world.


Highlander will provide organic free range meat and non-alcoholic beverages. Please bring sides or desserts, and any

alcohol you wish to imbibe.

For more information or to RSVP: [email protected]


Honoring Rosa Parks' Bravery in Montgomery- December 1, 1955


Rosa Parks seated toward the front of the bus, Montgomery, Alabama, 1956. (Photo by Underwood Archives/Getty Images)
Rosa Parks seated toward the front of the bus, Montgomery, Alabama, 1956. (Photo by Underwood Archives/Getty Images)

We know her now as one of the key figures of the Civil Rights Movement. A woman who was a force of nature that shifted the conversation about race and contributed to the progress we benefit today. On this day, December 1 in 1955, Rosa Parks’ refusal to get up from her seat in Montgomery, Alabama galvanized those already fighting for social justice and inspired others to join in. The story mostly told is one of a meek woman who suddenly grew tired of bus segregation and at that moment, made her move. It is true that she grew tired of segregation, but Miss Rosa was a well-seasoned activist with involvement with the local NAACP since the 1940s. She was a determined leader and organizer and involved herself in the movement after that day.


She came to Highlander several months prior in a desegregation workshop led by Septima Clark, organizer of the Citizenship Schools and considered the grandmother of the Civil Rights Movement. Thought most would know define her legacy with one action, Rosa’s story was one of life-long dedication and tireless work. She challenged the law of the land and her rebellion worked for the betterment of the nation. Rosa is in all of us in the current movement. Her spirit is with the people working day to day for liberation and that’s how we honor Miss Rosa.



 Rosa Parks at Highlander Folk School


Rosa Parks with the Clinton 12 at Highlander

Friend of Highlander, Dr. Jeanne Theoharis wrote a piece based on some of the newly-opened Rosa Parks papers at the Library of Congress to center her ‘life history of being rebellious’: https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/12/01/how-history-got-the-rosa-parks-story-wrong/


Dr. Theoharis and Say Burgin (University of Leeds) also wrote a piece to highlight 10 ways to teach her differently: http://www.thenation.com/article/10-myths-about-rosa-parks/




Highlander Center

"Not done yet!" Highlander Party and Fundraiser July 31 in Knoxville

You are invited…
to a Highlander party & fundraiser!

Friday, July 31st ~ 7pm – 9pm

“Not done yet!”

From Rosa Parks being at Highlander for the first time 60 years ago this month to today’s growing national movement for black lives led by young people of color, from the Appalachian Land Study to today’s App Fellows program on transition from a coal economy, Highlander is always in the thick of the most salient issues of the day.

“Bring your checkbook and come support
this international treasure in our back yard.”
~ Kay Newton

Heavy hors d’oeuvres will be provided.

Thank you for your generosity!

If you can’t join us, please donate online at highlandercenter.org

or send gift to:
Highlander Center, 1959 Highlander Way, New Market, TN, 37820

RSVP & for more information:
Barbara Mott, Development & Communications
[email protected]
(865) 360-4407 (direct line)

Homecoming 2015- "No Longer Erased: Lifting Up Racial and Gender Justice in Our Homes, Communities, and the Movement."


Click here to register for Homecoming


2015 Program_FINAL< Downloadable program



Mark your calendars for Highlander Homecoming, September 25-27, 2015! This year’s theme is “No Longer Erased: Lifting Up Racial and Gender Justice in Our Homes, Communities, and the Movement.” Join us as we explore racial justice and gender justice organizing in all its forms while celebrating those who move forward the work. We’ll be raising unheard voices, lifting up women as a backbone of movements across generations and issues, and breaking open the gender binary.

And we hope you’ll join us on Friday, September 25, as we hold a special memorial tribute full of story and song for Guy Carawan.


The fee to attend  is a sliding scale of $83 to $383 per person for the whole weekend. Saturday is $53 and Sunday $33.

There will be camp space provided at Highlander for attendees at $15/night and there are area hotels with discounted rates.



Days Inn Kodak – Sevierville Interstate Smokey Mountains
3402 Winfield Dunn Pkwy,
Kodak, TN 37764
(865) 933-4500
Rate $49.95/night. Mention Highlander Homecoming

For more information contact Andre Canty at [email protected] or 865-360-7321


Highlander Board Emertius Member Hollis Watkins Receives Tougaloo College's Highest Award


Honorary Doctorate Degree to be presented during May 3rd Commencement
April 28, 2015 – Jackson, MS – Tougaloo College will bestow its highest award to the Chairman of the Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement during the institution’s Commencement Services. Mr. Hollis Watkins will receive the Doctor of Humane Letters on May 3, 2015 at 10 a.m. on the Campus Green.

Noted for his commitment and support for higher education and in recognition of his humanitarian contributions, Mr. Watkins will receive the honorary doctorate degree for his excellence in leadership and service.

“The Tougaloo College family is very proud of all your contributions that have had worldwide impact in improving human conditions and forming a more perfect union,” said President Beverly Hogan in a letter presented to Mr. Watkins.
Hollis Watkins is the Founder and President of Southern Echo, Inc., a leadership development, education, training, and technical assistance organization dedicated to empowering local residents throughout Mississippi and the Southern region to make political, economic, educational, and environmental systems accountable to the needs and interests of the African-American community.

Mr. Watkins has spent a lifetime in pursuit of racial justice in his home state. In 1961, at the age of 19, he was the first Mississippi student to become involved in the Mississippi Voting Rights Project of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

To address the leadership needs of the future, Mr. Watkins has pioneered an intergenerational model of community organizing that encourages the participation of young people on the same basis as adults, bringing them into positions of responsibility. “When I was much younger,” he said, “I got my strength from the older folks; and now I’m a little bit older … and I get my strength from young people.”

His dedication to community has been recognized by various groups and organizations including SCLC, Fannie Lou Hamer Institute at Jackson State University, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. – Mu Sigma Chapter, and the Magnolia Bar Foundation, just to name a few. He has received numerous awards and honors from educational institutions, labor, church, and community institutions in Mississippi and abroad, most recently the 2015 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award in Jackson, MS and the Century Award at the 2015 Freedom Flame Awards Gala as part of the “Bloody Sunday,” Selma to Montgomery Bridge Crossing, and the Voting Rights Act 50th Anniversary Commemoration in Selma, Alabama as well as the Trailblazer Award for Outstanding Community Development from Alcorn State University.

Mr. Watkins was involved in managing, advising and working on many political campaigns, including the 1967 campaign for Robert Clark to become the first African-American elected to the Mississippi State Legislature since Reconstruction, both Presidential Campaigns of Rev. Jesse Jackson, the 1986 campaign of Mike Espy who was elected as the first African-American Congressman, and the 1993 campaign of Congressman Bennie Thompson.

He played a major role in keeping the music of the civil rights movement alive. Having been sustained by music when he was hanging from handcuffs in a cell in Parchman prison in the 1960’s, he includes the musical traditions of the Civil Rights Movement into the struggle of today, making it part of his organizing and bringing its message to a new generation of activists.

In addition to serving as Chairman, he also serves on the board of Highlander Research & Education Center and Southern Sustainable Agricultural Working Group (SSAWG).

About the Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement, Inc.
In 2004, the Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement created an organization whose mission is to collect, document, relate and preserve oral histories of civil rights veterans and their involvement in the civil rights movement in the state of Mississippi. We are committed to unveiling the truth that can be found in these authentic stories and supports persons actively using those stories to continue the pursuit of freedom, justice and equality.
“Empowering the next generation, passing it on to carry it on”

Honoring Rosa Parks' Place in History on this day and Looking Towards the Future- Dec 1

Rosa-Highlander Staff-Ferguson

Highlander Staff after the National Day Walkout in Solidarity with Ferguson
On this day 59 years ago—December 1, 1955—Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, ultimately sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a key milestone and victory in the Civil Rights Movement…. We honor Mrs. Park’s courage on that day and her life-long activism and passion for racial justice.  Today, in the spirit of Rosa Parks, we lift up the call to action and power of resistance, from shutting down highways to locking down the BART to today’s #HandsUpWalkOut action, and we honor the bravery and leadership of those, especially young people of color, who are taking their own stands for freedom and justice in Ferguson and across the country. Attending a Highlander desegregation workshop just four months before refusing to give up her seat, Mrs. Parks said, “At Highlander, I found out for the first time in my adult life that this could be a unified society, that there was such a thing as people of differing races and  backgrounds meeting together in workshops and living together in peace and harmony. I gained there strength to persevere in my work for freedom.”