CDF Haley Farm

In 1994 the Children’s Defense Fund found a permanent home for our Leave No Child Behind® movement in the beautiful 157-acre farm that once belonged to Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alex Haley. Since then tens of thousands of leaders across age, discipline, faith and race have come through the Haley Farm gates for robust discussion, sharing of best practices, training and spiritual renewal.

Nestled in the foothills of the Tennessee mountains near Knoxville, CDF Haley Farm connects young leaders and activists with the glorious heritage of the struggle for freedom, and is where policymakers and community builders come to connect, recharge their spiritual and physical batteries and brainstorm strategies.

The grounds of CDF Haley Farm include a main meeting lodge, modernized guest cottages, the Langston Hughes Library and the Riggio-Lynch Chapel. The ark-shaped chapel symbolizes the safe haven every child deserves. This beautiful, simple, functional and inspiring space is alive with great music and great preaching, prayer and worship, discussion and debate. The Riggio-Lynch Chapel and Langston Hughes Library were both designed by award-winning Vietnam Veterans Memorial designer Maya Lin. To our knowledge Haley Farm is the only site in the country with two Maya Lin structures.

The Children's Defense Fund and its many programs have transformed Haley Farm into a vibrant training ground and place for spiritual renewal and intergenerational, interdisciplinary, interfaith and interracial communication to prepare new leaders for children and the poor. We invite you to visit this sacred space.

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Langston Hughes Library 

The Langston Hughes Library is a private, non-circulating, 5,000-volume reference collection and reading room. Dedicated in 1999 in honor of one of America's most important and prolific writers, the library is used by children's advocates, spiritual leaders, educators, civil rights leaders, authors, illustrators, publishers, scholars, teachers, librarians and students who come to Haley Farm for training, leadership development, reflection and inspiration. The reading room is named after acclaimed poet and novelist Dr. Maya Angelou and renowned historian Dr. John Hope Franklin. A sitting area is dedicated to civil rights heroine Rosa Parks.

Through the generosity of Barnes & Noble Chairman Leonard Riggio, and his wife, Louise, this cantilever barn was restored and recreated as a modern, comfortable, sky-lit reading room by Maya Lin, the award-winning Vietnam Veterans Memorial designer.

The library's unique collection focuses on written works by African American authors, children's picture books illustrated by African American illustrators, and books about the Black experience. The collection specializes in publications about children's advocacy; spirituality; nonviolence; the Civil Rights Movement, with particular attention to the role of women; women's leadership; African American history, literature, and culture; African culture and history; and children's literature. Special highlights of the collection are the hundreds of books that have been chosen as CDF Freedom Schools® books. These selections have been read by hundreds of children as participants in the CDF Freedom Schools program held in many cities across the country. Other highlights of the library collection include the following:

  • Children's Defense Fund® publications
  • Federal government studies on child welfare
  • Signed first editions of many renowned authors and illustrators

In the past, the Langston Hughes Library has played host to the following events:

The Langston Hughes Library Roundtable brought together authors, illustrators, librarians, scholars and publishers to discuss empowering children and youth through literature and the expansion of books presenting positive images of Black children.

The Langston Hughes Children's Literature Festival celebrated the Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes. The festival showcased Hughes's poetry, fiction and non-fiction works for children through readings, visual arts, music and dance.

Each year, the Langston Hughes Library sponsors programs to acquaint the public with African American authors and their works. Middle school, high school and college students in the area visit the library for instruction in African American literature and to browse the collection housed in the library. Each February, the Langston Hughes Library participates in the national observance of the African American Read-In, sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Other events at the library provide an open forum to nurture, teach and empower people to work on behalf of children.

Riggio-Lynch Interfaith Chapel 

The Riggio-Lynch Chapel was made possible by the generosity of Barnes & Noble Chairman Leonard Riggio and his wife, Louise Riggio. After the events of September 11, 2001, Mr. Riggio felt the need to do something to establish a place for people to find comfort and peace and to be renewed and strengthened. Award-winning Vietnam Veterans Memorial designer Maya Lin, who also designed the Langston Hughes Library at Haley Farm, designed the Riggio-Lynch Chapel as well. To our knowledge, Haley Farm is the only site in the country with two Maya Lin structures.

The interfaith chapel is named in honor of Leonard Riggio and William (Bill) Lynch, former Deputy Mayor of New York City. Mr. Riggio and Mr. Lynch are both former CDF Board members and long-time supporters of CDF. During the dedication service for the chapel on July 18, 2004, Mr. Riggio made the following statement: "In the ark design, Maya Linn has created a new metaphor for the Haley Farm Freedom Schools and a lasting symbol of our covenant to finish the unfinished work of the Civil Rights Movement. The chapel is a place of safety and shelter for the hundreds of young people who come to Haley Farm each year to learn, worship, and train to become the next generation of leadership for children and families."

The chapel resembles a huge ark carrying all of the world's children to safety. The chapel's simple, soaring shape evokes the ark of protection, the fishermen's boats that figured in Jesus' ministry and the small boat drawn by seven-year-old Maria Coté featured in the Children's Defense Fund's logo. The chapel is constructed of cypress siding with a fir roof, deck and beams. An open courtyard links the Chapel's main structure to a smaller, concrete building, which houses an office wing, a meeting room and bell tower. This concrete block building, which is in such sharp contrast to the cypress exterior of the ark-like main building, was designed to resemble the type of building found in many shipyards where builders' equipment and supplies are kept.