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Zilphia Horton Cultural Organizing Project



Zilphia Horton Cultural Organizing Project

Highlander Research and Education Center is an 81-year old organization founded by Myles Horton and others to address the needs of working class and Appalachian people. The purpose of Highlander has expanded its mission to include addressing multiple issues, including the needs of working class people, people of color, LGBTQ- identified people, and other marginalized populations. Highlander primarily serves as a workshop, education, and resource center for organizing in the U.S. South, as well as nationally and globally. The four core methodologies under which Highlander operates include popular education, participatory research, multilingual capacity building, and cultural organizing. Specifically, Highlander defines cultural organizing as the strategic use of art and culture to promote progressive policies with marginalized communities.

Cultural Organizing

Cultural Organizing at Highlander is both a core methodology and a set of programs. One such cultural program is the Zilphia Johnson Horton Cultural Organizing Project, named after Zilphia Horton (née Johnson). Zilphia, the wife of Myles Horton, was an organizer who was responsible for stressing to Highlander’s founder Myles Horton the importance of bringing in art and culture when organizing people for social movement.


The goals of the Zilphia Horton Cultural Organizing Residency Project and partnerships include the following:

  • Help organizations expand the role of art and culture in their organizing and advocacy efforts
  • Enrich the work of cultural workers, artists and/or cultural organizers involved by providing a strategic opportunity to engage community issues and to work with and learn from grassroots organizations.
  • Inspire people to develop cultural tools that can help bring more interest and energy to issue campaigns. This could be song, video, performances, paintings or other works of art that draw on local cultures and address community issues and concerns.