Molly Lynn Watt
(Mary Otis Lynn, Mary Lynn Gustafson)

Highlander Education and Research Center, 1963, Tennessee
175 Richdale Ave #315
Cambridge, MA 02140
Phone: 617-354-8242


I co-directed the Smoky Mountain North-South Work Camp in Blount County for Highlander Education and Research Center in 1963. Our purpose was for an interracial group of volunteers to build a facility to be used for residential voter registration trainings of interracial groups of volunteers in the future. This was a contribution I could make with two babes in tow and help build the road to democracy after a harrowing three week trip in April studying the TVA with The Putney Graduate School. We traveled as an interracial group of graduate students and learned more about injustice than the TVA, becoming an unofficial freedom ride as we watched restaurants serving us be firebombed, service refused at gas stations and there was no where we could spend the night except to find southern hospitality in homes, of we learned, very courageous residents.

The Work Camp volunteers were half Birmingham Freedom fighters well versed in what a movement was and the other half young white idealists primarily privileged and from the north. One night we were taken at gun point without a warrant for arrest, our cabin and tents searched without a search warrant, to the local jail by men without badges and wearing overalls. I understand that the black men were made to ride in the trunk of the cars, etc. Luckily, no violence, we were taken to jail, "for our protection", even my one and three year old daughters, no phone calls allowed. The camp facilities were burned a few days later. Sheriff Trotter may still have the research for my my thesis.

Later, have the legal clouds over our heads drifted back, I returned to the north and worked on fair housing, freedom schools, school integration. I led Work Camps in Roxbury for the AFSC, taught Headstart in Roxbury, my daughters integrated preschools in Roxbury, I worked for Freedom House in Roxbury. I was a member of the Martin Luther King Speaker Bureau in New Hampshire going in to schools to share why the Civil Rights Movement belonged to all Americans.

Now as a retired educator, I am leading a study group with my husband, Dan Lynn Watt, on the Civil Rights Movement at Harvard Institute for Learning in Retirement. I recently wrote my first song, "Dr. King Looked Out to the tune "I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night" and have been singing it for groups. It has been selected by Sing Out for its Folk Process Column.

Last summer Dan and I were interviewed by the American Repertory Theater about our experiences as civil rights workers during 1963 and 1964. This was part of the A.R.T.'s community outreach for the play, "All The Way," about Lyndon Johnson's first year as president.

These short interviews are now posted on YouTube as:

"My Story - Dan Lynn Watt" about Dan's experiences in Fayette County Tennessee in 1964.

"My Story - Molly Lynn Watt" about my experiences while working For Highlander in 1963.

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