Eyes on the prize

If you need a sound track for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, try Mavis Staples’ “We’ll Never Turn Back.” The YouTube video is one of the tracks, “Eyes on the Prize.”

Fantastic set of civil rights songs done by fantastic lady. (Ry Cooder’s pretty good, too).

1. “Down In Mississippi”
2. “Eyes On The Prize”
3. “We Shall Not Be Moved”
4. “In The Mississippi River”
5. “On My Way”
6. “This Little Light”
7. “99 And A Half”
8. “My Own Eyes”
9. “Turn Me Around”
10. “We’ll Never Turn Back”
11. “I’ll Be Rested”
12. “Jesus Is On The Main Line”

KKK protest

It’s also as good as time as any to remember one of the pivotal institutions in the Civil Rights Movement has its home in East Tennessee, the Highlander Institute.

Many of the influential figures in the Civil Rights Movement — Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Ralph Abernathy, Pete Seeger, among them — visited the Highlander farm. It’s teachers turned “We Shall Overcome” into a Movement anthem. (The Highlander continues to administer the “We Shall Overcome Fund,” funded by the song’s the royalties.

The Highlander Institute was started in Monteagle, Tenn., in 1932. It was moved to Knoxville in 1961 and moved to a more remote setting in nearby New Market in 1971. The photo above right is a Ku Klux Klan protest of the Highlander Institute in Knoxville in 1966.

It was clearly feared throughout the South for it was, a truly disruptive force on the status quo of segregated race relations and an economic system that strived mightily to the keep Southern poor poor. Its focus has shifted over the years and it now carries the struggle against the environment pollution, the ill effects of globalization, and for expanded social rights

Its remarkable history is here, but this NPR piece from last September about the Institute’s 75th anniversary does a good job of putting it in perspective in a short amount of time.

Its history in song and photos is in the audio slide show below.

So crank up Mavis and remember what it’s all about because, as she says, we’re not done yet.

(Photo from Highlander)