Teaching about Freedom Schools

Why Freedom Schools?

Freedom Schools promote education for transformation and liberation.

Freedom Schools allow students to learn about the history of the Civil Rights Movement beyond an individual hero, speech, or march.

Freedom Schools invite all of us to look critically at the purpose of education today and the possibilities for the future.


About Freedom Schools

“Education should enable children to possess their own lives instead of living
at the mercy of others.” 
—Charlie Cobb Jr.

“Education should enable young people to function productively and
meaningfully in society and give them the tools to change society.”  
—Charlie Cobb Jr.

The Freedom Schools of the 1960s were part of a long line of efforts to liberate people from oppression using the tool of popular education, including secret schools in the 18th and 19th centuries for enslaved Africans; labor schools during the early 20th century; the Citizenship Schools formed by Septima Clark and others in the 1950s; and more.

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 2,500 students, including parents and grandparents.

Learn more in the lesson, Exploring the History of Freedom Schools.