In 1955, Rosa Parks refused to relinquish her bus seat to a white patron, an act which sparked the Montgomery bus boycott. In 1963, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and delivered his now-famous “I Have A Dream” speech. During this same time, folk music legend Pete Seeger helped popularize the Civil Rights anthem, “We Shall Overcome.”
While these people and their historic acts might be well known, what is often overlooked is the role Appalachia played in this liminal period. Parks, King, and Seeger all attended training sessions at the Highlander Center in East Tennessee, and twelve Black students from Clinton, Tennessee, became the first in the South to integrate a public high school. The Birmingham Campaign in Alabama is part of Appalachian history, and marches took place across the region.
In this public discussion in our Freedom Stories series, we hear from musician, storyteller, and educator Reggie Harris; civil rights activists Ann Beard Grundy and Charles Nebett; and Dr. Daryl Carter, Associate Dean for Equity and Inclusion for the College of Arts and Sciences and director of Black American Studies at East Tennessee State University as we explore the events of the Civil Rights Movement, particularly as they pertain to Appalachia, and ask ourselves, “Are we there yet?”