Many moons ago, before NPR’s Morning Edition existed, Bob Edwards was the co-host of All Things Considered. When the East Tennessee chapter of the Society for Professional Journalists needed a speaker for a banquet, we invited him to come, offering to pay all expenses and, as I recall, a painfully small honorarium. To our surprise and delight, Edwards accepted, and in making the arrangements, he commented that he wanted to come to Tennessee to visit the Highlander Research and Education Center. Highlander is celebrating its 75th anniversary this weekend, and NPR–sans Edwards–did a piece on Sunday’s Weekend Edition.
Highlander, as it is usually known, has been more famous–or infamous–outside of the state than inside, and poses a challenge for cultural tourism: how do you talk about a place that doesn’t encourage visitors? The official Tennessee travel website gets the name of the center wrong and lumps it under “African-American History.” The regional tourism website doesn’t mention Highlander at all.
This is too bad, for Highlander is a very significant place and should be celebrated. Here’s what I wrote on my website and in an entry on Tracy City in Grundy County, where Highlander came into existence and was run out of town by law enforcement and others who opposed the civil rights and union work done at Highlander.
Where should exhibits on Highlander go? Ideally, it would be best located at Highlander, but otherwise I would suggest the East Tennessee Historical Society Museum.
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