December 1, 1955, was not an accident of history. Rosa Parks, often described as “a seamstress,” was college educated, trained as a teacher, and trained in civil rights actions at the Highlander School in New Market, Tennessee.
On this anniversary of Mrs. Parks’s Earth-moving action of civil disobedience, I think back to a photograph taken a couple of years later, at the Highlander School.
It’s a stunning photograph, not for its photographer’s skills, nor the artistic nature of the taking. It’s a true snapshot. Five people on a farm in Tennessee, in black and white. Probably the photographer used a Kodak camera made just for snapshots.
Except, it was 1957. The farm is the Highlander School. The five people in the photo include folksinger Pete Seeger, and Rosa Parks, and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Who was the photographer? Perhaps Myles Horton, the director of the school (and Charis’s husband).
In a sort piece filmed at his home in Beacon, New York, for the Highlander’s 75th Anniversary in 2007, Pete described the time and the occasion.
Don’t you love the cricket singing along with Pete?
- A copy of the political flyer featuring the notorious photograph, claiming to be King at a “communist training school,” from Stanford University’s encyclopedia, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Global Freedom Struggle
- A copy of a similar flyer in the King Center’s collection, with hand-written comments from a detractor; notice the flyer claims to be “reprinted from the Georgia Commission on Education”