In Honor of Guy Carawan

Many interesting people pass through our doors. One of our more notable regulars, however, were the Civil Rights pioneers, Guy and Candie Carawan. Six days ago, on May 2, 2015, Guy Carawan passed away, leaving Candie and their cabin in the Smoky Mountains.

People like the Carawans are truly a treasure to our community. He and Candie were long time regulars at the Tomato Head. Their visits were always delightful for our staff because of the friendliness of the Carawans, and we were truly honored to host them in our dining room.

Guy and Candie Carawan were active teachers in the Highlander Center in New Market, Tennessee. The Highlander Center, founded in the 1930s, served as a hub for both folk music and the Civil Rights Movement during the 1950s and ‘60s. The extent of the Highlander Center’s influence over the Civil Rights Movement was significant. Programs were designed to teach the importance of not using violence, how to protest peacefully within the rights of the law, how to organize and rally protesters, and much more.

Rosa Parks claimed that the lessons and community at the Highlander Center had given her the knowledge and courage to refuse to move from a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. The center also trained members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), as well as iconic Civil Rights figures such as Septima Clark, Ralph Abernathy, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In fact, Martin Luther King was a student of Guy in one of his workshops at the Highlander Center. Guy also introduced “We Shall Overcome” to the movement. He was also a folk musician who worked with other folk singers such as Pete Seeger. He is described by his friends to have been the definition of humility, a giving and caring soul, and to have truly believed in equality. His contribution to the Civil Rights Movement was powerful, yet his name is seldom heard. Myles Horton, the founder of the Highlander Center, once said, “You can do a lot of good in the world if you don’t care who gets the credit for it”.  Guy and his wife Candie certainly fit this bill.

Another friend we’ve made who has been coming to eat with us for many years, Knoxville photographer Dan MacDonald, has put together a slide show of photographs featuring Guy and Candie. Visit this link to read Dan’s memories of Guy, as well as see Guy smiling with Candie just before his health issues began.

We would like to say thank you to the Carawans for their impact on our nation, their strong moral character, and for blessing us with their visits for the past few years. We would also like to say thank you to Dan for putting together this memoir.

Highlander Rosa Parks
SUMMER 1955 Desegregation workshop at Highlander. Rosa Parks is at the end of the table. Six months later, her actions sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott.