Days after a mysterious fire destroyed decades of invaluable archives and artifacts at The Highlander Research and Education Center in Tennessee, a subsequent investigation has uncovered a white power symbol that could indicate the most likely motive behind the fire.
“As most of you know, a devastating fire burned down our main office early Friday morning. Thankfully no one was inside the building and no one was injured,” the social justice center wrote in a press release published on Facebook. “We also found a symbol connected to the white power movement spray-painted on the parking lot connected to the main office.”
“While we do not know the names of the culprits, we know that the white power movement has been increasing and consolidating power across the South, across this nation, and globally.”
On March 29, The Root reported that a building at the legendary center, which once trained Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and other civil rights leaders and organizers, was burned to the ground—along with the priceless archives, documents, and memorabilia from the civil rights movement that it housed.
It was initially deemed a “brush fire” before that designation was changed to a “structure fire” by local officials. But the discovery of the symbol changes everything.
Chelsea Fuller, a spokeswoman for Highlander, described the symbol as resembling a “tic-tac-toe board” that was painted in the parking lot near the office.
“It’s connected to a well-known white power movement,” she told CBS News. “But they’re not releasing the name at this time; the local investigation is still underway.”
“Because of our history we are not surprised that this space, one where marginalized people working across sectors, geographies and identities show up consistently, has been repeatedly targeted over our 87 years of existence,” the center said in its statement.
According to Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Coffey, investigators will remain on site for two or three more days.