Highlander nurtures the skills of authentic grassroots leadership and helps to build the capacity of marginalized communities across the South. In 2011, we will fortify issue campaigns with the strategic inclusion of art and culture. The Zilphia Horton Cultural Organizing Residency Project will match artists and communities in residency work to help local organizers develop cultural tools to help take a current campaign to another level.

As the first stage of the Zilphia Horton Project, we are currently accepting applications for communities/organizations interested in partnering with us to host a multi-week cultural organizing residency starting in Spring 2011. Communities in Appalachia and the southern United States are eligible to participate with special consideration given to rural communities.

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

  • 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.


    The project will begin with an orientation workshop for the artists and community representatives at Highlander in February and close with an evaluation workshop at Highlander in December.

    To apply to the Zilphia Horton Cultural Organizing Residency Project, download the application form (PDF, 8kb) and send it to Susan Williams, Highlander Center, 1959 Highlander Way, New Market, TN 37820. Fax: 865-933-3424, email swilliams (at) test.highlandercenter.org. For more information about the program, contact

  • Tufara Waller Muhammad 865-335-2443 tufara (at) test.highlandercenter.org
  • Susan Williams 865-933-3443 ext. 229 swilliams (at) test.highlandercenter.org
  • The Zilphia Horton Community Cultural Project is named for Zilphia Horton, one of Highlander’s first staff members, who brought an understanding of the connection between culture and organizing that has continued throughout Highlander’s history. Zilphia taught song-leading, helped organizing workers to write labor
    dramas, and helped to share the song “I Will Overcome” after learning it
    from striking tobacco workers in Charleston, South Carolina. The Zilphia Horton Project continues Zilphia Horton’s legacy by bringing together artists and grassroots activists to address and develop solutions for the pressing social and economic issues facing the region.

    The Zilphia Horton Project is funded by the Open Society Institute Democracy and Power Fund.

    Zilphia Horton singing on a picket line in the 1940s
    Zilphia Horton singing on a picket line in the 1940s.

    One Response

    1. Thank you for this opportunity. Please clarify what we are specifically applying for:
      It is funding, if so what range?
      It is for transportation to attend Highlander in Feb. and Dec.
      It is the funding to have a cultural organizer come to our community to work with our own grassroot organization?
      More details please on how this works, what is our benefit to apply?
      Sound preliminarily like something AAHC could benefit our community with, but what is the structuring for the application?
      Thank you.