The Freedom Schools of the 1960s were part of a long line of efforts to liberate people from oppression using the tool of political and language literacy, including secret schools in the 18th and 19th centuries for enslaved Africans; labor schools during the early 20th century; and the Citizenship Schools formed by Septima Clark in the 1950s.
The Freedom Schools of the 1960s were first developed by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) during the 1964 Freedom Summer in Mississippi. They were intended to counter the “sharecropper education” received by so many African Americans and poor whites. Through reading, writing, arithmetic, history, and civics, participants received a progressive curriculum during a six-week summer program that was designed to prepare disenfranchised African Americans to become active political actors on their own behalf (as voters, elected officials, organizers, etc.). Nearly 40 freedom schools were established serving close to 2500 students, including parents and grandparents.
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TEACHING FOR CHANGE RESOURCES
HIGH SCHOOL AND ADULT
ARTICLES AND LINKS
Education and Democracy (see entire Freedom Schools curricula)
Freedom’s Struggle and Freedom Schools, Charles Cobb, Jr.
Staughton Lynd talks to Freedom School teachers in Mississippi, 1964.
Dr. Staughton Lynd, director of the Freedom Schools in the Freedom Summer project, talks to Freedom School teachers in a theater. Seated on the second row on the far right are Nancy and Joseph Ellin from Kalamazoo, Michigan; he a professor of philosophy at Western Michigan University and she a homemaker. They will teach in the Freedom Schools in the Hattiesburg project--he at Priest Creek Missionary Baptist Church in Palmers Crossing and she at True Light Baptist Church in Hattiesburg. Nancy Ellin also supervised the Freedom Libraries in Hattiesburg.
Photo and text used with permission from Herbert Randall and the McCain Library and Archives, University of Southern Mississippi.