INTRODUCTION

FREEDOM SUMMER AND THE FREEDOM SCHOOLS

By Kathy Emery, Sylvia Braselmann and Linda Reid Gold

 

In the summer of l964, forty-one Freedom Schools opened in the churches, on the back porches, and under the trees of Mississippi. The students were native Mississippians, averaging fifteen years of age, but often including small children who had not yet begun school to the elderly who had spent their lives laboring in the fields. Their teachers were volunteers, for the most part still students themselves. The task of this small group of students and teachers was daunting. They set out to replace the fear of nearly two hundred years of violent control with hope and organized action. Both students and teachers faced the possibility, and in some cases, the reality, of brutal retaliation from local whites. They had little money and few supplies. Yet the Freedom Schools set out to alter forever the state of Mississippi, the stronghold of the Southern way of life.

The schools were an integral part of the 1964 Mississippi Summer Project (later known as Freedom Summer). The Summer Project was designed by an umbrella organization called the Council of Federated Organizations. COFO was an organization coordinating the efforts of representatives from the four major civil rights groups. For example, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) provided lawyers for those thrown in jail when they participated in voter registration drives and civil disobedience. The Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) helped organized community centers. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) had established the Citizen Education Program in Mississippi the year before Freedom Summer. The Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC, pronounced “snick”) provided the field workers that went to the most dangerous parts of Mississippi to register voters. Freedom Summer was also supported the National Council of Churches, and during the summer volunteers of the Medical Committee for Human Rights, and lawyers from a variety of groups worked in Mississippi. The long-term aim of Freedom Summer was to transform the power structure of Mississippi. The short-term aim of the summer project was to challenge the legitimacy of the all white Mississippi Democratic Party at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City in August of 1964. To do this, organizers needed to create a parallel state party that was truly representative of the people of Mississippi—both blacks and whites.

To create a truly representative political party, the vast majority of disempowered African Americans would need to develop the self confidence and organizational skills required of active citizens. Freedom Summer’s three programs, distinct yet reinforcing each other, were voter registration, Freedom Schools and Community Centers (see Prospectus for the Mississippi Freedom Summer.) The Freedom Schools’ major contribution to that process was to implement a curriculum based on the asking of questions whose answers were sought within the lives of the students. As the curriculum itself states:

 

We are going to talk about a lot of things: about Negro people and white people, about rich people and poor people, about the South and about the North, about you and what you think and feel and want. . . . And we’re going to try to be honest with each other and say what we believe. . . . We’ll also ask some questions and try to find some answers. The first thing is to look around, right here, and see how we live in Mississippi.

From Introduction to Unit I of the Citizenship Curiculum: Comparison of Students’ Realities with Others

 

Under the direction of Staughton Lynd, professor at Spelman College, the schools were established to teach confidence, voter literacy and political organization skills as well as academic skills. The curriculum was directly linked to the formation of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. As Edwin King, who ran for Lieutenant Governor on the MFDP ticket, stated, “Our assumption was that the parents of the Freedom School children, when we met them at night, that the Freedom Democratic Party would be the PTA.”

Both the schools and the Summer Project set about to support black Mississippians in naming the reality of their lives and then in changing that reality. The classroom and voter registration became one; both began with the lives of the people of Mississippi and, for both, “questioning (was) the vital tool.” The questions raised struck at the most fundamental assumptions white Americans held about themselves and the institutions they had created. As SNCC’s James Forman stated:

 

In SNCC we had often wondered: How do you make more people in this country share our experiences, understand what it is to look in the face of death because you’re black, feel hatred for the federal government that always makes excuses for the brutality of Southern cops and state troopers?

 

We often wondered: How do you make a fat, rich country like the United States understand that it has starving people within its own boundaries, people without land, people working on Senator Eastland’s plantation for three dollars a day or less?

 

We often wondered: How can you make the people in the United States exercise their responsibility to rid themselves of racist politicians who fight every progressive measure introduced in the halls of Congress?

 

We often wondered: How can we find the strength to continue our work in the face of the poverty of the people, to do everything that shouts to be done in the absence of so many resources?

 

The Mississippi Summer Project was an attempt to answer those questions.

 

The Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi

QUESTION: What is COFO?

ANSWER: COFO is the Council of Federated Organizations—a federation of all the national civil rights organizations active in Mississippi, local political and action groups and some fraternal and social organizations.

 

QUESTION: How did COFO get started?

ANSWER: COFO has evolved through three phases in is short history. The first phase of the organization was little more than an ad hoc committee called together after the Freedom Rides of l961 in an effort to have a meeting with Governor Ross Barnett. This committee of Mississippi civil rights leaders proved a convenient vehicle for channeling the voter registration program of the Voter Education Project, a part of the Southern Regional Council, into Mississippi.

With the funds of the Voter Education Project, COFO went into a second phase. In this period, beginning in February 1962, COFO became an umbrella for voter registration drives in the Mississippi Delta and other isolated cities in Mississippi. At this time COFO added a small full-time staff, mostly SNCC and a few CORE workers, and developed a voter registration program. The staff worked with local NAACP leaders and SCLC citizenship teachers . . . as a committee with a staff and a program until the fall of l963.

From Unit VII, Part 2 (I),

Freedom School Curriculum

 

The civil rights organizations working with COFO agreed to share resources in Mississippi. They understood that they needed to cooperate to have a chance to bring change to the bastion of the white power structure. Mississippi had long been the most repressive state in the union. In 1962, African Americans were forty two percent of the population of the state. Of the approximately 525,000 registered voters in Mississippi who were eligible to vote in 1960, about 95 percent were white, fewer than five percent were African American. Economic and physical repression was a constant threat for most black Mississippians. Black infants (under one-year old) died at twice the rate of white children of the same age. Forty-three percent of Mississippi high school students left before graduating (1962). Ninety percent of Mississippi’s sharecropper force was African American.

The seeds of Freedom Summer were planted in 1961. During that year a member of a Mississippi NAACP branch office, Amzie More, invited Bob Moses of SNCC to come to the state to help organize a voter registration campaign. Over the next several years, Moses and other SNCC field secretaries and CORE volunteers tried to help blacks register to vote. Medgar Evers of the NAACP helped organize a boycott of white businesses in Jackson beginning in December of 1962. But retribution was swift and brutal. The efforts were met with beatings, threats of violence and economic reprisals by the white establishment. The very night she returned from an unsuccessful attempt to register to vote, Fannie Lou Hamer and her family was put off the plantation where she had lived and worked for eighteen years. Among others, Herbert Lee, a farmer who helped voter registration efforts, was murdered in 1962 and Medgar Evers was murdered in 1963.

COFO’s strength was not just the cooperation between the major civil rights group, but a strong local leadership. Black Mississippians identified with COFO as their own organization.

 

The emergence of the Ruleville Citizenship Group, and the Holmes County Voters League, testified to the possibility of starting strong local groups. It was felt that COFO could be the organization through which horizontal ties could develop among these groups. . . . During this second phase we began to feel more and more that the Committee could be based in a network of local adult groups sprung from the Movement as we worked the state.

From Unit VII, Part 2 (I),

Freedom School Curriculum

 

In the summer of 1963, Al Lowenstein and Bob Moses came up with the idea of holding a mock election to show that blacks would indeed vote if allowed. This “Freedom Vote” officially began with a state-wide convention on October 6, 1963 at the Masonic Temple in Jackson. The delegates selected an integrated ticket of Aaron Henry (NAACP) for governor and Ed King (Tougaloo College chaplain) as his running mate. One hundred white students come down for several weeks in the fall to participate in “Freedom Registration.” On election day in November, nearly 80,000 blacks voted.

 

The third phase representing the present functioning of the organization began in the fall of l963 with the Freedom Vote for Governor. This marked the first state-wide effort and coincided with the establishment of a state-wide office in Jackson and a trunk line to reach into the Mississippi Delta and hill country. The staff has broadened to include more CORE and SNCC workers and more [SCLC] citizenship schools.

From Unit VII, Part 2 (I),

Freedom School Curriculum

 

The success of the Freedom Vote was achieved at great cost. The process was slow and dangerous. To maintain the momentum gained in 1963, Moses and others began to contemplate a summer project for the following year but with a large number of northern white volunteers in order to draw national attention—and federal protection—to Mississippi. This idea of a Freedom Summer project was not immediately embraced by all those who had worked on the Freedom Vote. During SNCC and COFO staff meetings many expressed concern about the effect the influx of many white northerners would have on the development of local leadership. There was also concern about racial tensions. These debates led to an agreement to use white volunteers but to have their roles clearly defined and limited. Once this and other issues were settled, the decision was made to launch the Move On Mississippi. The blueprint for Freedom Summer was approved at the January COFO meeting (see Prospectus for the Mississippi Freedom Summer).

 

Freedom Summer

QUESTION: What are the programs sponsored by COFO?

ANSWER: COFO works in two major areas. 1) Political, 2) Educational and social. The educational and social programs are the Freedom Schools, Federal Programs, Literacy, Work-study, Food and Clothing and Community Centers. Some of these are in operation; others are in the process of being developed.

Freedom Schools are planned for the summer of l964. There are several things which hopefully will be accomplished by the Schools. 1) to provide remedial instruction in basic educational skills but more importantly 2) to implant habits of free thinking and ideas of how a free society works, and 3) to lay the groundwork for a statewide youth movement.

From Unit VII, Part 2(I),

Freedom School Curriculum

 

During the deliberations about a summer project and discussions about what such a project could look like, SNCC field secretary Charles Cobb proposed to take advantage of the presence of the summer volunteers to use them as teachers, and include the issue of education in the project. “Students as well as professional educators from some of the best Universities and colleges in the North will be coming to Mississippi to lend themselves to the movement. These are some of the best minds in the country, and their academic value ought to be recognized and used to advantage.” Drawing from the ideas of the SCLC citizen’s schools and the SNCC education project in Selma Alabama, Cobb formally proposed the formation of Freedom Schools in December of 1963 (see Prospectus for a Summer Freedom School Program in Mississippi).

Cobb understood that, in Mississippi, “schools as institutions were part of the apparatus of oppression.”[1] Every aspect of traditional Mississippi schools conveyed the state’s message of racial inferiority and of the need for black children to adjust to their “place.” In the cotton lands of the Delta, schools were closed during picking season. Libraries with books discarded from the white schools and science labs without equipment were the rule. In order to keep their jobs, African American public school teachers were often silent on political issues. In “Notes on Teaching in Mississippi,” Cobb stated:

 

Here, an idea of your own is a subversion that must be squelched. . . . Learning here means learning to stay in your place. Your place is to be satisfied—a “good nigger.” They have learned the learning necessary for immediate survival: that silence is safest, so volunteer nothing; that the teacher is the state, and tell them only what they want to hear; that the law and learning are white man’s law and learning.

 

The Freedom School concept proposed by Cobb added the school to the institutions that SNCC had set out to challenge, to transform, or, if necessary, to replace. In addition to opening the minds of the students to questioning, the schools would be an effective tool for political organizing; in the classroom, students would be trained to become local civil rights workers. “The overall theme of the school,” Cobb wrote, “would be the student as a force for social change in Mississippi.”[2]

 

What if we showed what was possible in education? We had already been approaching this through ‘literacy workshops’ within the context of organizing for voter registration. And SNCC itself had created a ‘nonviolent high school’ during the 1961 protests in McComb. . . . But we hadn’t really tackled education as an approach to community organizing in and of itself.

Significantly, the model for how to do this emerged from a specific political organization that also grew out of grassroots organizing: the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.[3]

 

In Mississippi, SNCC workers found the doors to the existing institutions closed. In the Freedom Schools, as they had in the Freedom Vote and the Mississippi Democratic Party, they set about creating an alternative.

Origins of the Curriculum: The Curriculum Conference

Once the decision for the summer project had been taken, a Summer Educational Program Committee was formed. The seven members of the committee, co-chaired by Lois Chaffee, a white English teacher from Tougaloo College and John O’Neal, SNCC field secretary and co-founder of the Free Southern Theatre, discussed curriculum strategy and set out to prepare a curriculum conference.

The National Council of Churches sponsored the curriculum conference on March 21-22, in New York. The organizers cast a wide net in their invitations to the conference, and the fifty three people that participated represented a wide range of educational, philosophical and civil rights expertise. The conference pulled together representatives of SNCC, CORE, SCLC, SDS (Students for a Democratic Society), the National Council of Churches, teachers unions and others. Among the participants were Ella Backer; Septima Clark, head of the SCLC citizen schools; Highlander’s Myles Horton; Noel Day, a junior-high school teacher who had organized a one-day program during the 1963 Boston school boycott; Norma Becker and Sandra Adickes, New York teachers and activist members of the United Federation of Teachers; and Staughton Lynd, political activist and professor of history at Spelman College, later state-wide director of the Freedom Schools.

The conference participants broke up into four subgroups to address the specific areas and to write curriculum (see Outline for Curriculum Planning). They were asked to keep in mind that the curriculum had to take into account the inexperience of the volunteers as teachers, their ignorance of what life was like in Mississippi, and the relative short time they would have for teaching. Thus, the curriculum had to be teacher friendly and immediately usable. The goal was a curriculum around questions and activities that would invite discussion and re-enforce the relationship between school and the life of the student.[4]

At the end of the two-day conference, the subgroups wrote reports that became the basis for the curriculum. Subgroup One, Leadership Training, broke up into two smaller committees. One committee developed a course in black history. Barbara Jones of SNCC’s New York office wrote a Negro history outline, and Bea Young from Chicago submitted a study of the Amistad case. Staughton Lynd then used these two parts as the basis for the Guide to Negro History (see Guide to Negro History).[5] The other committee submitted a citizenship curriculum, written by Noel Day and Peggy Damon-Day. Noel Day had written curriculum for a number of Freedom Schools around the country. His proposal was somewhat abridged and modified by Jane Stembridge, and became the first six Units of the Citizenship Curriculum (see Citizenship Curriculum).[6]

Subgroup two, Remedial Academic Curriculum, again divided into two smaller working committees. One committee discussed the role of testing, and in its short report summarized the decision that testing should not be used, since “traditional evaluation and testing methods were as oppressive as traditional teaching methods—both caused fear, submissiveness and loss of self-respect among students.”[7] The other committee report was submitted by Sandra Adickes, New York city teacher who had also taught in the summer schools in Prince Edwards county, Virginia, 1963. This report became the Reading and Writing part of the Academic Curriculum.

Subgroup four, Nonacademic Activities, recommended the use of student newspapers, drama, and creative writing, and leadership development through participation in voter registration activities. They also recommended that students should develop skills in student government and be given opportunities to meet in a state-wide convention to form networks.[8]

The majority of conference participants worked in subgroup three, Contemporary Issues. The group suggested to teach problem solving through a series of case studies that would relate classroom knowledge to the wider political, social and economic issues. In the first part of their report, they delineated the educational principles, and in the second part described a layout for 13 case studies to be written by conference participants and others (see Report of Contemporary Issues Subgroup of Curriculum Conference).

From the end of March to the beginning of the orientation on June 20, the curriculum committee, especially Lois Chaffee, worked furiously to collect all the promised material. Due to the short time, only some of the case studies suggested by the contemporary issues subgroup were completed. Some of those case studies included extensive lesson plans, for example the case study comparing the Nazi German power structure and the power structure of the South, which included teacher guidelines and suggestions for instructional strategies. Others merely provided information or analysis, but did not give suggestions on how to teach.

 

The Curriculum

The curriculum conference had brought together people from different groups and backgrounds. Similarly, the final curriculum distributed to the teachers consisted of material from different origins. The Academic Curriculum and Unit VII of the Citizenship Curriculum were written for the Freedom Schools, as well as some case studies (Mississippi Power Structure; Voter Registration Laws in Mississippi; Civil Rights Bill; Nazi Germany.) Units I to VI of the Citizenship Curriculum was based on curriculum written previously, but modified for the Mississippi Freedom Schools. In addition, supporting information and teaching material was provided. COFO staff put together collections (Statistics on Education, Housing, Income and Employment and Health; Statements of Discipline of Nonviolent Movements; Readings in Nonviolence.) Two reprints of Liberation magazine articles were included (Triple Revolution; Rifle Squads or the Beloved Community.) Finally, the coordinators of the schools received a copy of Martin Duberman’s In White America, and six papers written by members of SDS (South as an Underdeveloped Area; Chester, PA; Cambridge, MD;NYC School crisis; Power of the Dixiecrats; Hazard, KY)

The Table of Contents of the curriculum assigned these supporting materials to units of the citizenship curriculum. An alternative approach of connecting and using the case studies planned by the Contemporary Issues subgroup was provided in the Outline for Case Studies that had been mailed to the teachers. That these approaches were complementary rather than exclusive is shown in the fact that the suggested case studies on Freedom Rides and Sit-Ins, and on COFO’s political program, became part VII of the Citizenship Curriculum.

Part of the curriculum material was mailed to the teachers on May 16, and the rest was typed up by Alice Lynd and reproduced on a hectograph machine by the Lynds in their Atlanta apartment. Staughton Lynd and some volunteers drove the material up to the orientation in Ohio in the trunk of the Lynd’s car.

The curriculum writing, however, was not over. Very quickly The Guide to Negro History became a favorite of the students, and the COFO office in Jackson sent out more teaching materials, including copies of different books on Negro History, and more Bob Zangrando wrote two more papers covering the time after 1900 (see History Addendum I, History Addendum II, and Negro History Study Questions).[9]

The volunteer teachers did what the organizers had hoped, they drew upon the students’ interests and ideas, taught what they knew and developed curriculum and wrote papers. Non-violence in American History was one response to the need they saw in the schools. Hattiesburg Freedom School teacher and Stanford Historian Otis Pease added material on The Development of Negro Power in American Politics Since 1900; and Brian Peterson in McComb wrote a discussion course “The American Negro in a World of Change.”[10]

The materials that have since become known as the Freedom School Curriculum were intended to be used in conjunction with the knowledge and skills that the students brought to the schools in the form of their own experiences.  The interaction of written curriculum with lived experiences took the form of discussion, debate, drama and ultimately political action.[11] All three sections of the Freedom School Curriculum—the Academic Curriculum, the Citizenship Curriculum, and a Recreational Curriculum—were intended to promote the following principles:

 

1.  The school is an agent of social change.

2.  Students must know their own history.

3.  The curriculum should be linked to the student’s experience.

4.  Questions should be open-ended.

5.  Developing academic skills is crucial.

 

The Academic Curriculum suggested reading, writing and verbal activities based on the students’ experiences. The Citizenship Curriculum consisted of seven units that would be used to “encourage the asking of questions, and hope that society can be improved.” Each of the seven units consisted of subject material (both secondary and primary), questions, readings, and activities. The introduction to the curriculum wished to “emphasize” that such materials were

 

only suggestions, and that individual teachers may interpret the concepts in different ways or substitute other methods. There is probably more in each unit than it will be possible to use, but it was included so that each teacher would have a range of material to choose from, and extra material if necessary.

 

As they studied the curriculum, teachers were told to discard it and to create, on the spot if necessary, activities and questions that responded to the needs of the students in front of them. The curriculum’s central premise, the importance of questioning, challenged the concept of a written curriculum. The Freedom School curriculum encourages—in fact, mandated—that the teacher improvise. The mimeographed sheets taken by the teachers into the classroom were not intended to be memorized or “covered”; the curriculum served as a springboard to classroom activities that linked the suggested lessons to the lived experience of the students. Like the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, the Freedom Schools were radical; their purpose was to replace an existing social institution with an institution rooted in the lived experience of those who had been exploited, oppressed, and excluded by the original system.

A necessary step in this process was to make the old system visible to the students, to help them understand how the system gained its power, and to help them challenge the system’s version of reality, a version of reality which appeared externally in social structures and internally in their view of themselves, their history, and the possibilities for their future. Before the students could learn, they had to un-learn the self-negation taught by Mississippi’s segregated schools. One strategy to achieve this was to replace the negative images of African Americans created by the old system with positive images generated by reclaimed history. The curriculum intended that teacher would help the students learn to trust their own voices and their own experience.

The Academic Curriculum

The first part of the Academic curriculum consisted of “the presentation of conventional academic subjects.” Teachers were advised to introduce these subjects “at the beginning of the school day, when students are fresh.”[12] From the beginning, the Freedom Schools interpreted the teaching of skills as a political act. The failure of the Mississippi public schools to teach skills maintained racial boundaries and reinforced students’ sense of their own inferiority. To challenge the power structure, the students needed to read, to write, and to master basic math; the Freedom Schools began the task of providing these skills. But the skills were not taught out of context; they were to be taught from an experiential and interdisciplinary approach.

 

If, for example, the group of students plan to canvass, the language arts phase of the program could concentrate on an appropriate verbal skill, the social studies area could be devoted to the study of the population to be canvassed in terms of economic, social, religious factors and the implications of those factors, the math area could be given over to statistical breakdowns, charts, etc.

Introduction to Academic Curriculum

 

The writers of the curriculum believed that the teachers needed to monitor the students’ engagement and adjust the content and methodology to maintain the interest of the student. The student's interest depended a great deal on his and her ability to understand and learn the material. This in turn would be dependent upon:

1. developing positive relationships between teacher and student as well as among students;

2. not overwhelming the students with more information than they can learn at a given time;

3. switching activities whenever one is not engaging the students; and

4. as much as possible, using the students' own experiences as the content of the curriculum.

(See Non-Material Teaching Suggestions for Freedom Schools)

The Citizenship Curriculum

The second part of the curriculum, partly an adaptation by educator Noel Day from a curriculum he had created during the Boston school boycott, taught students to see themselves as initiators of social change. The curriculum contained exercises in naming the power structure and analyzing how it worked. They were also asked to name their own reality and to contrast their reality with reality of more privileged whites. This section contained two sets of guiding questions:

 

Basic Set of Questions:

1. Why are we (students and teachers) in Freedom Schools?

2. What is the freedom movement?

3. What alternatives does the freedom movement offer us?

 

Secondary Set of Questions:

1. What does the majority culture have that we want?

2. What does the majority culture have that we don’t want?

3. What do we have that we want to keep?

 

These organizing questions were repeated throughout the seven units of Part II, the Citizenship Curriculum.

 

Unit I:       The Negro in Mississippi (comparison of the student’s reality with that of others)

Unit II:      The Negro in the North

Unit III:     Myths about the Negro (examining the apparent reality)

Unit IV:     The Power Structure

Unit V:      Poor whites, poor Negroes, and their fears

Unit VI:     Soul Things and Material Things

Unit VII:    The Movement:

Part 1: Freedom Rides and Sit-Ins

Part 2: COFO's Political Program

 

The argument being presented in the Citizenship Curriculum was something like this: Your life can be better than it is right now (Unit I) but going north will not improve it (Unit II). You need to stay in Mississippi and fight to improve the schools, housing, and hospitals that are available to you. This fight has not been waged in the past because Negroes have internalized the myths about them (Unit III) and face a white power structure that permeates all aspects of life (Unit IV). The rich white elites that control the power structure have been able to enlist poor whites by playing on their fears—poor whites are victims as well (Unit V). As long as poor Negroes and poor whites desire “material things” over “soul things,” they can be manipulated by fear and thus effectively deprived of both material and soul things (Unit VI). Direct action and political action are instruments of social change (Unit VII). At the end of the curriculum, students were encouraged to become actively involved in the process of social change.

Case Studies

The purpose of the case studies was to provide the teachers and students with documents and data supporting the content of the curriculum, and to provide lesson plans where possible. Their origin and quality was diverse, some were written or assembled specifically for the Freedom Schools, others were provided by different organizations. In the case studies, students were given a problem and were actively involved in the creation of a response. “Teachers were to focus not on teaching facts but on teaching students to draw upon their own experiences, to relate the case studies to current situations in Mississippi, and to derive suggestions to solving problems in their own area.”[13]

Guide to Negro History

Authored by historian and Freedom School Coordinator Staughton Lynd and based on Bea Young and Barbara Jones’ work, the Guide to Negro History presented to the students previously untold stories of resistance, accomplishment, and heroism. The Guide not only challenged the status of the white version of history, it provided models for action. For the first time, students heard stories of slave rebellions aboard the Amistad and in Haiti; the heroes of the Confederacy and the myths of the Old South were discarded and were replaced with new heroes and new stories.

Once the schools had started, the importance of African American history and the great desire of students to learn more about their own place in history became very obvious. The Freedom School in Jackson organized a special Negro History program in the second half of the summer, and wrote additional teaching material covering the 20th century (see History Addendum I, History Addendum II, and Negro History Study Questions).

Preparations for Teaching: The Orientation

The 280 Freedom Summer volunteers who were assigned to be teachers in the Freedom Schools took part in the second of two, one week-long orientation sessions held in June at Western College for Women in Oxford, Ohio. The volunteers, few of whom were professional teachers, received an introduction into the political and economic conditions of Mississippi, in the type of education their students would have received in the state’s segregated schools, and in techniques which might help open the minds of their students to new ideas and possibilities. Historian Howard Zinn described the advice the teachers were given at Oxford:

 

You’ll arrive in Ruleville, in the Delta. It will be 100 degrees, and you’ll be sweaty and dirty. You won’t be able to bathe often or sleep well or eat good food. The first day of school, there may be four teachers and three students. And the local Negro minister will phone to say you can’t use his church basement after all, because his life has been threatened. And the curriculum we’ve drawn up—Negro history and American government—may be something you know only a little about yourself. Well, you’ll knock on doors all day in the hot sun to find students. You’ll meet on someone’s lawn under a tree. You’ll tear up the curriculum and teach what you know.[14]

 

The dangers the teachers would face were communicated to them dramatically with the disappearance of CORE workers James Chaney and Michael Schwerner, and summer volunteer Andrew Goodman. The three had participated in the first orientation, Schwerner and Chaney as staff, and had left for Mississippi on the weekend before the volunteer teachers arrived for their orientation. They intended to investigate a church burning that had occurred after the congregation had voted to house a Freedom School. On their way back, they were arrested by the local sheriff, released in the late evening, and disappeared. The worry about the three civil rights workers hung over the week-long orientation, and on the last day of the orientation, Bob Moses announced that the SNCC staff was convinced that the three had been murdered. After this announcement, Staughton Lynd spent part of the evening counseling teachers who were reconsidering their decision to go to Mississippi. Kirsty Powell, as one of the volunteer teachers, questioned the emphasis at Oxford on the dangers of going (see A Report, Mainly on Ruleville). Writing after the summer was over, Powell reflected that

 

The main effect of Oxford (was it the main design?) was to bring each of us to the point of asking: “Do I really believe in this enough to go? Ought I go? Do I want to go? This was as it should have been, I think. At the time I felt that such emphasis was placed on preparing for the dangers . . . that we did scant justice to the job of preparing to teach or of understanding the meaning of the Freedom School concept. . . . The Freedom School sessions . . . could have been bettered. . . . The Curriculum was excellent, but . . . it was not used as well as it deserved . . . partly . . . because it wasn’t really explored at Oxford. . . .[15]

 

The first Freedom School teachers arrived in Mississippi in late June, planning to open twenty schools with approximately one thousand students. Like SNCC field secretaries and other summer volunteers, the teachers stayed in the homes of local people. Classrooms were found anywhere the black community was willing to situate them—in churches, in basements, on porches, under trees. Attendance was entirely voluntary; part of a teacher’s task was to canvass for students. Like voter registration workers, teachers knocked on doors, explained their purpose, and encouraged participation. Often, to establish their link with the community, they were accompanied by local teenagers who had showed up at the COFO office.

Word of the schools spread from one student to another, and gradually the classes began to fill. The anticipated enrollment of one thousand grew, day by day, student by student, to two thousand. Classes were attended not only by the teenagers for whom they were planned but by younger children and adults.

 

The Schools in Practice

It is not our purpose to impose a particularly set of conclusions. Our purpose is to encourage the asking of questions, and hope that society can be improved.

Introduction,

Citizenship Curriculum

 

Like the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, the Freedom School was an alternative and not an imitation. Historically, Mississippi’s schools for African American children had perpetuated the notion that whiteness was a norm from which all peoples of color deviated. The black child would have been at best invisible and at worst humiliated. An education which perpetuated self-rejection could not lead to significant change in the political status of African Americans. What good were the schools and libraries of Mississippi if within them the black child had no history, no voice, and no self-respect? In the Freedom School, the child was to be taught to question and to create.

Stokely Carmichael, veteran of the Freedom Rides and director of the COFO project in Greenwood, Mississippi, conducted a Freedom School class “like participatory democracy—in which leaders questioned, the mass of people guided, and any idea for change was regarded as a realistic possibility.”[16] Using language as a means of discussing racial divisions, Carmichael wrote four sentences on the left side of the board in local black dialect and, on the right side, four in standard English.

 

STOKELY: Will society reject you if you don’t speak like on the right side of the board? Gladys said society would reject you.

GLADYS: You might as well face it, man! What we gotta do is go out and become middle class. If you can’t speak good English, you don’t have a car, a job, or anything.

STOKELY: If society rejects you because you don’t speak good English, should you learn to speak good English?

CLASS: No!

ALMA: I’m tired of doing what society say. . . . People ought just to accept each other. . . . If I change for society, I wouldn’t be free anyway. . . . If the majority speaks on the left, then a minority must rule society? Why do we have to change to be accepted by the minority group?

STOKELY: Let’s think about two questions for next time: What is society? Who makes the rules for society?[17]

 

Everything about the Freedom schools was fluid in order to link the reality of the students’ lives to the goal of social and economic justice for all. The teachers taught whatever was needed and requested by the students, from typing to French. They were encouraged to modify the curriculum as needed, but to stick with the question and answer method. “The paper curriculum that Alice and I had produced was for the most part set aside as teachers improvised: writing school newspapers, typing, French, and poetry were among the most popular subjects,” wrote Lynd later[18] The actual experience of the Freedom Schools was created by students and teachers in active and often spontaneous collaboration. As lawyer and summer volunteer Len Holt stated:

 

From the beginning, the schools were a challenge to the insistent principle that everyone had talked about so much: flexibility. Where the initial plans had been for only the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grades, one found sitting in the informal circles youngsters with the smooth black faces and wondering eyes of the impish faces of nine and ten who were mere fifth-graders. Flexibility. And there just behind teen-aged boys—with slender, cotton-picking muscles—were sets of gnarled hands and the care-chiseled faces of grandmothers, some of whom said they thought they were in the seventies (birth records for the old are almost non-existent). Flexibility.[19] 

 

In Freedom School classes, the teachers used many of the methods—role playing, music, and open-ended discussion—that had been honed in the movement of which the schools were a crucial part. Students were taught to question, discuss and debate so they could begin to formulate their own thoughts, thoughts that would necessarily lead to action.[20] “The kind of teaching that was done in the Freedom Schools was, despite its departure from orthodoxy—or more likely, because of it—just about the best kind there is. . . . (The teachers) taught, not out of textbooks, but out of life, trying to link the daily headlines with the best and deepest of man’s intellectual tradition”[21] (see Notes on Teaching in Mississippi).

Supervision and Finances

The compilers of the FSC believed that accountability needed to be incorporated into the program itself. The Basic and Secondary Questions that were to be “reintroduced periodically” were to “both permit an on-going evaluation of the effectiveness of the curriculum, and to provide students with recurring opportunities for perceiving their own growth in sophistication.”[22] Assessment and evaluation occurred on the level and at the time that it could do the most good—both the student and teacher were the primary evaluators.  A second-level evaluation occurred at the state organizational level in order to support the work at the site level. The Freedom Schools were instructed to write regular reports and send them to the COFO office in Jackson (see A Report, Mainly on Ruleville.). These reports were used to create regular press releases and profiles (see Profiles of Typical Freedom Schools).

The teachers were expected not only to pay their own way but to assist in fundraising. But as much as possible, COFO attempted to fund the Freedom Schools in terms of food (for students,) rent, transportation, equipment, phone bills, if not salaries for the teachers. One early planning budget suggested (in 1964 dollars): Hattiesburg, $2,000; Meridian, $1,300; Holly Springs, $1,000; Ruleville, $700. The variety in budgets depended on the relative resources of the community as well as the money the COFO organizations were able to raise nationally. Some towns’ organizations could raise more money than others in order to pay for that which could not be acquired through donations. Some towns were able to have space and equipment donated. [23]  In the end, the Freedom Schools ran on a shoestring budget; Staughton Lynd estimated that less than $2000 passed through the Jackson office, and most of that was used for film rentals.[24]

Many supplies, especially books for the libraries of the Community Centers, were collected before the summer began. A Jackson COFO memo sent out to “Everybody working with the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project” suggested appealing to manufacturers to donate equipment such as tape recorders and movie projectors. The memo asked “everybody” to solicit libraries across the country for donations based on the specific book list provided. A Community Center brochure indicated that national unions were raising money to buy books for the Community Centers.

The reality of the Freedom Schools seemed to conform to Staughton Lynd's image of a guerrilla army which “swims in the sea” of the people among whom it lives.[25]

The Freedom School Classrooms

The actual schedule varied from school to school, depending on the needs of the students and the local public school schedule. The Ruleville Freedom School, for example, was scheduled as follows:

9:00-9:15              Civil rights songs

9:30-10:30            Core classes: Negro history and Citizenship curriculum

10:30-11:30          Choice of dance, drama, art, auto mechanics, guitar and folksinging, or sports

12:00-2:00            School closed

2:00-4:00              Classes in French, religion, crafts, music, playwriting, journalism

4:00                      Seminar on non-violence[26]

 

Discussion

The Purpose of the freedom schools is to help [the students] begin to question

Notes on Teaching in Mississippi

 

At the center of the curriculum was education’s most powerful tool: the question. The questions were not meant to be answered by the individual student, but by the group. The basic and secondary set of questions did not ask: “What alternatives does the Freedom Movement offer me?” or “What does the majority culture have that I want?” The questions asked: “What does it offer us?” And: “. . .that we want?” Group discussion was the tool that made this community building approach possible.

To students accustomed to memorization and rote learning, discussion was crucial in creating voice and teaching them to value themselves and their classmates. Chairs were arranged in a circle to alter the concept of the teacher as an authority who could not be challenged. Teachers began with introductory questions and then followed up with probing questions. Frequently the teachers asked the students, “How do you feel about this?” Students were encouraged to ask questions as well.

Anything could serve as the basis for a discussion—local events, history, personal experience. “The teachers asked questions and the students talked,” wrote Len Holt. “The students could and did say what they thought to be important, and no idea was ridiculed or forbidden—an immeasurably traumatic joy for the souls of young black folk.”[27] A teacher from the Vicksburg Freedom School wrote:

 

I read to them from Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward Angel and from Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream, then had them write speeches as if they were Senators urging passage of the civil rights bill. I tried to extend the idea of oppression beyond race. If you pick on a small kid with glasses and beat him up, aren’t you acting the same as the white segregationists? I asked them.[28] 

 

Another teacher helped his students define the word “skeptical.” “We should feel free to think as we want, question whomever we like, whether it’s our parents, our minister, our teachers, yes, me, right here. Don’t take my word for things. Check up on them. Be skeptical.”[29]

Plays

The viewing and creation of plays was an important part of the experience of many Freedom School students. In attending a production of In White America, many students saw live theater for the first time. Martin Duberman’s documents-based drama inspired students and teachers to dramatize African American history for themselves. At the Holly Springs Freedom School, students created a play based on the life and death of Medgar Evers. In a discussion of the events of Evers’s life, one student remarked, “I don’t think of him as really dead. I feel that from his grave is growing a huge tree which is spreading seeds of freedom all over.”[30] The child’s metaphor became the title of the play: “Seeds of Freedom.” At the end of the drama, the narrator states:

 

And this is a play about freedom . . . about us! Yes, us, because every step we take along the freedom road, every time we act, every time we do something to move forward . . . we plant a seed. And seeds are blowing in the wind today.[31]

 

In Milestone, Mississippi, the Freedom School play was presented at the end of a local community meeting. The play dramatized events in African American history, from slavery to the present, and ended with an exhortation to the audience:

 

I am the American Negro.

You have seen my past; you have known my past.

And you have seen the trouble I’ve seen.

Today we have seen many men die

Because they stood for their rights.

Today we have seen three men disappear

For joining our fight.

Tomorrow many more will die.

And many more will suffer,

But we’ve begun and we are not turning back

And someday, somehow, we shall overcome![32]

 

The Ruleville Freedom School created a puppet play in which the knight Bob Moses fought a wicked witch named Segregation. In some schools, the students used their own experience as the basis for drama. At the Ruleville Freedom School, a play was created from a protest staged by the students; in Gulfport, students composed a short play entitled Memories of Freedom School  (see Notes on Teaching, Noel Day, “Remarks about Method”).

Role Playing

Role playing was used not only to help students understand concepts but to prepare them for direct action. “Kids that age are natural actors,” explained a Freedom School teacher. “And it puts them in other people’s shoes. We don’t want to win easy arguments over straw foes. They have got to be tough thinkers, tough arguers.”[33] In one classroom, students debated the arguments against the Civil Rights bill offered by conservative presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. Goldwater’s arguments were listed on the board, and one student as Goldwater defended them against counter-arguments from the class. As it had been in the movement, role playing was also used to prepare students for the direct action of canvassing and picketing.

Music

As it was in the movement, music was a significant part of the curriculum in each of the Freedom School. Most schedules included a daily session of the singing of Freedom songs. The Mississippi Caravan of Music paid several visits to Freedom School classrooms; in these visits, folksingers like Pete Seeger introduced students to songs of the movement and linked the students’ experiences, through folk music, to the experiences of people in other countries. In Gulfport, the school day ended with the singing of “We Shall Overcome.”

 

There was one special song, a very solemn song. It requires everyone to gather in a circle and join hands for a time, each thinking in his own mind about the meaning of freedom and about people like Medgar Evers, Herbert Lee, and the three civil rights workers in Neshoba County, and all the others who have died fighting for freedom in Mississippi. . . . The song lets students and teachers know the pattern of their lives, that all the great number of years which comprise a life is not so many after all when there is freedom to be fought for.[34] 

Poetry

Poetry was seen as a crucial means of expression, a means by which students long silenced gave form and shape to their feelings and aspirations. A poem by a twelve-year-old girl in the Biloxi Freedom School was a response to the question “What is wrong?”

 

What is wrong with me everywhere I go

No one seems to look at me.

Sometimes I cry.

 

I walk through woods and sit on a stone.

I look at the stars and I sometimes wish.

 

Probably if my wish ever comes true,

Everyone will look at me.[35]

 

The poetry, shared with the class, was part of the process of unsilencing, as well as a means of linking their personal pain to the oppression they faced as blacks in Mississippi. In Harmony, Mississippi, thirteen-year-old Ida Ruth Griffith, read a poem to a class held under the trees:

 

I am Mississippi-fed,

I am Mississippi-bred,

Nothing but a poor, black boy.

 

I am a Mississippi slave,

I shall be buried in a Mississippi grave,

Nothing but a poor, dead boy.

 

Some students angrily challenged the poet’s use of the word “slave”; others defended it. “She’s right,” one student argued. “We are. Can your poppa vote? Can mine? Can our folks eat anywhere they want to?”[36] Students also read the works of many other poets—Langston Hughes, Gertrude Stein, Robert Frost, and e. e. cummings, for example—and often used these works as models for their own.

Newspapers

Almost every one of the Freedom Schools published a newspaper. This action was in itself radical in a state whose press was controlled by the interests of the white power structure; in many communities, these student newspapers were the first alternative presses. Freedom School newspapers contained student poetry, announcements about political demonstrations, editorials, and reports of local events (see Excerpts of Student Work and Freedom School Data).

Political Action

The direct link between the classroom and the community encouraged by the Citizenship Curriculum often occurred in the Freedom School Classrooms. The Freedom School was in many cases literally a school without walls, and passers-by could be drawn into the discussions. “One day three Negro ladies trudged by, looking angry and forlorn, on their way back from the courthouse, where they had just learned that their applications for voter registration had been rejected. The teacher called them over to tell what had happened. Thus the students learned of the registration procedures and how to help their parents pass the exams.”[37] In Jackson, Mississippi, Freedom School students and teachers organized a response to an announcement that African American parents would be allowed to register their children at a previously all-white public school. In classroom discussions and role playing, students explored their apprehensions about the consequences for parents who registered to vote; a teacher and student volunteers visited over seventy families and encouraged them to attend a prayer meeting organized by local ministers to support registration. When only one mother attended the meeting, students returned to the seventy families to urge them to register. Eleven of the forty-three eligible children were registered; this number represented progress for Mississippi. After realizing that black public school teachers were afraid to jeopardize their jobs by registering to vote, students at the Ruleville Freedom School performed role plays to encourage their teachers to vote and practiced picketing. With the support of their teacher, students wrote a letter announcing their intention to the principal and faculty, and successfully picketed the local high school. In many Freedom Schools, students shared the work of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. “It’s what the school was about—educating students for involvement in changing social conditions,” wrote teacher Pam Allen of the Holly Springs Freedom School. “[The] main work was registering people into the MFDP” (see Report, Mainly on Ruleville and New Houses of Liberty).

The Freedom School Convention

Throughout Freedom Summer, Freedom School students had been educated for political empowerment. While the voting-age adults attended the MFDP state convention in Jackson, the students held their own convention in Meridian on August 6-8, and addressed many of the same issues. The students held a parallel convention, rather than leaving politics to their elders. Just as the students were asked to do voter registration work, they participated in the convention process as well. Edwin King described the MFDP as the PTA of the Freedom Schools. The Freedom Schools and the MFDP were, in many ways, the same organization.

Freedom SchoolsFinal Report, 1964, suggested that the best way to evaluate the effectiveness of the Freedom Schools was to read the Program from the Freedom School Convention in Meridian. The Report wanted the reader to “Note particularly the proposal for a state-wide school boycott. School boycotts are already in progress in Shaw and Harmony. A boycott is about to begin in Indianola. There will be many such boycotts during the winter.” If the primary purpose of the Freedom Schools was to empower students to take direct action, the existence of school boycotts was evidence of the success of the curriculum.

In an article he wrote for Freedomways in 1965, Staughton Lynd proposed “If I were to start a Freedom School now (and we are about to start one in New Haven), I would suggest: Begin with a Freedom School Convention and let that provide your curriculum” (see The Freedom Schools: Concept and Organization). He began to come to this conclusion during the second day of the Freedom School Convention during which the students had begun to reject the advice of the adults. They had discovered that they could do everything themselves. What came out of this convention was a political program. Lynd believed at that time that “it would have been better if the schools had begun with such a convention, and if the statewide program brought back to each school by its delegates had then become the curriculum for the summer.” Lynd worried that the Civil Rights movement was being “strangely neglectful of program.” The Freedom School Convention delegates, on the other hand, were not being so neglectful. Lynd anticipated that the Freedom Schools could provide future political candidates who would be able “to declare themselves intelligently on a variety of issues” if the Freedom School Platform became the new curriculum of the Freedom Schools (see Platform of the Freedom School Convention).

 

Freedom Schools beyond freedom Summer

QUESTION: Even with all this, how can we hope to win in Mississippi?

ANSWER: We won’t win, at least not for a very long time, unless the federal government throws its weight behind us.

 

QUESTION: What can we do to force the federal government to help us?

ANSWER: We can continue working constantly to show the world how horrible Mississippi is, and continue trying to change it.

From Unit VII, Part I,

 

The MFDP’s attempt to challenge the seating of the regular Democrats at the Democratic National Convention was unsuccessful. However, the bitterness of defeat of at the convention was only the bitterness of losing a battle and not the war. Challenging the MDP in Atlantic City was only one of the goals of Freedom Summer. A sea change in consciousness was the other. And there was evidence that such a change had occurred, as Liz Fusco described in her report at the end of the summer (see Freedom Schools in Mississippi, 1964).

Many remained committed to continuing to work hard to change things in Mississippi. Freedom Schools continued to operate in the fall of 1964. The Mississippi Freedom Labor Union was organized in January of 1965 at a Freedom School Discussion. Federal funds became available through the federal Economic Opportunity Act of 1964. In 1965, a group of Freedom Summer workers used federal funding to establish day care centers for preschoolers and the FDP continued to register voters.

Once the summer ended, most volunteers returned to their homes but some stayed. Liz Fusco, who had been the head of the Indianola Freedom School, became coordinator for the fall program. In a report entitled “Freedom Centers—What’s Happening,” dated September, l964, Liz Fusco described some progress and some discouragement. Some Freedom Schools suspended daytime classes and held adult classes in the evening to support voter registration; other schools continued with daytime classes for children whose regular public school classes had been suspended for cotton picking. Many places maintained community centers which housed libraries and sponsored after-school tutoring. The Mississippi Student Union (MSU), an organization of teenagers, offered support for the continuing Freedom Schools. In Ruleville, “Kindergarten in the daytime, high school and adults in the evenings. Extensive use of library. . . . The adults meet two nights a week for reading and discussion. The MSU kids hold Sunday-afternoon meetings instead of Saturday-night dances, then refreshments.” In Cleveland, the “MSU is active in school, refusing by letter to raise money by the campus queen drive. Talking about eating in public places and boycotting stores.” In Tchula, Fusco reported, “In process of building new community center. Freedom School staff mostly in jail” (see Freedom School Data).

Charles Cobb wrote that the Freedom School program, like the Movement, was “a victim of its success.” Freedom Summer had focused the attention of the country on Mississippi, and some change followed. “We had in one sense accomplished what we set out to do: a public accommodations law had been passed; a voting rights law seemed certain. Mississippi was now prominently on the political map. New organizations, like the Mississippi Child Development Group, with deeper financial pockets, were establishing themselves.” Federal programs like Head Start turned the problems of compensatory education over to government.

Cobb wrote, “Perhaps the fact that the schools existed at all was their greatest success. As Freedom School Director Staugton Lynd noted in a report to COFO that summer, the schools ‘helped to loosen the hard knot of fear and to organize the Negro community.’”[38] Lynd stated in a l964 newspaper interview that the schools may have sown the seeds of future social change by briefly providing an alternative to Mississippi rigid caste system. “Mississippi is never going to be the same. There are 2,000 youngsters who now know that they can relate to whites on a basis of equality. These kids want to be educated; they reach out for it. If the Negro gets the vote, these are the people who will be in the legislature in future years.”[39] 

But the Freedom Schools were neither the beginning nor the end of the process of linking education to social change. Their antecedents were many: the Highlander Folk School, the Citizens Education Program of the SCLC, the classes in nonviolent resistance held by James Lawson in Nashville, the role plays in Montgomery churches in preparation for the bus boycott, and Nonviolent High, to name only a few examples. Certain principles of education for social transformation were embedded in the Freedom School Curricula: 

 

        The creation of an honest and egalitarian relationship between teacher and student 

        The valuing and naming of the students’ own experience

        The asking of open-ended questions

        The presentation to students of an authentic and empowering view of themselves and their history

        The vision of the arts as a transformative force

        The emphasis on skills necessary for action and effective participation in the world

        The establishment of a direct line from classroom to community

 

In applying these principles, the Freedom Schools experienced some success and some frustration. There were some immediate victories and other victories more subtle and impossible to measure. The experience of these small and determined groups of teachers and students raised as many questions as it answered. The questions raised by the Freedom Schools and their predecessors are profound. Are schools servants of the existing social system, no matter how unjust that system might be, and is the task of teachers to modify student aspiration to ensure their students a place in the world as it is? Or is the classroom a place for transformation? 

After visiting the Freedom Schools in l964, educator and historian Howard Zinn reflected about their importance beyond Mississippi.

 

The Freedom Schools’ challenge to the social structure of Mississippi was obvious from the start. Its challenge to American education as a whole is more subtle. There is, to begin with, the provocative suggestion that an entire school system can be created in any community outside the official order and critical of its suppositions. But beyond that, other questions were posed by the Mississippi experiment. . . . Can we, somehow, bring teachers and students together, not through the artificial sieve of certification and examination but on the basis of their common attraction to an exciting social goal? Can we solve the old educational problem of teaching children crucial values, while avoiding a blanket imposition of the teacher’s ideas? Can this be done by honestly accepting as an educational goal that we want better human beings in the rising generation than we had in the last, and that this requires a forthright declaration that the educational process cherishes equality, justice, compassion and world brotherhood? . . . And cannot the schools have a running, no-holds-barred exchange of views about alternative ways to these goals? . . . Would it be possible to declare boldly that the aim of the schools is to find solutions for poverty, for injustice, for race and national hatred, and to turn all educational efforts into a national striving for those solutions?

Perhaps people can begin, here and there (not waiting for the government, but leading it) to set up other pilot ventures, imperfect but suggestive, like the one last summer in Mississippi. Education can, and should, be dangerous.[40]

 

 

 

Copyright 2004; Kathy Emery, Sylvia Braselmann, and Linda Gold

 

 


[1]  Charles Cobb, “Organizing the Freedom Schools,” in Freedom is a Constant Struggle: An Anthology of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement, Susan Erenrich, editor and developer, Cultural Center for Social Change, Washington, D.C., 1999, 136.

[2]  Ibid., 110.

[3]  Ibid., 136.

[4]  George W. Chilcoat and Jerry A. Ligon, “Theatre as an emancipatory tool: classroom drama in the Mississippi Freedom Schools,” in Journal of Curriculum Studies, (1998, volume 3, number 5), 518.

[5]  Daniel Perlstein, “Teaching Freedom: SNCC and the Creation of the Mississippi Freedom Schools” in History of Education Quarterly 30 (Fall 1990), 310.

[6]  Ibid, 312.

[7]  George W. Chilcoat, and Jerry A. Ligon, “’Helping to Make Democracy a Living Reality’: The Curriculum Conference of the Mississippi Freedom Schools,” in Journal of Curriculum and Supervision (XV:1, Fall 1999, 43-68), 58.

[8]  Ibid., 59

[9]  Bob Zangrando to Tom Wahman, August 15, 1964. SNCC Papers, Martin Luther King Library and Archives (Sanford NC: Microfilming Corporation of America, 1982; Reel 67, File 337, Page 0640).

[10]  Ibid., 6.

[11]  In this and in many other ways, the Freedom School Curriculum reflected much of the philosophy of John Dewey.  Dewey argued that “Organized subject matter . . . does not represent perfection or infallible wisdom; but it is the best at command to further new experiences which may, in some respects at least, surpass the achievements embodied in existing knowledge and works of art.  From the standpoint of the educator, in other words, the various studies represent working resources, available capital.  Their remoteness from the experience of the young is not, however, seeming; it is real.  The subject matter of the learner is not, therefore, it cannot be, identical with the formulated, the crystallized, and systematized subject matter of the adult” (Democracy and Education, p. 182, Free Press, 1966, originally published, 1916).

[12]  Staughton Lynd and Harold Bardanelli to Freedom School Teacher, 20 May 1964, SNCC Papers, Martin Luther King Library and Archives (Sanford NC: Microfilming Corporation of America, 1982; Reel 67, File 340, Page 1189).

[13]  George W. Chilcoat and Jerry A. Ligon,“Developing Democratic Citizens: The Mississippi Freedom Schools”, in Erenrich, Constant Struggle, (edited from “Developing Democratic Citizens: The Mississippi Freedom Schools as a Model for Social Studies Instruction” in Theory and Research in Social Education, Spring, 1994, 128-175), 113.

[14]  Howard Zinn, “Freedom Schools,” in The Zinn Reader,  Seven Stories Press, New York, 531.

[15]  Kirsty Powell, A Report, Mainly on Ruleville Freedom School, Summer Project, 1964 , SNCC, The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Papers, 1959-1972 (Sanford, NC: Microfilming Corporation of America, 1982) Reel 68, File 367, Page 0582.

[16]  Robert Weisbrodt, Freedom Bound, New York, Penguin Books, l991, 111-112. 

[17]  Ibid., 111.

[18]  Staughton Lynd, “Freedom Summer,” in Living Inside Our Hope: A Steadfast Radical’s Thoughts on Rebuilding the Movement, ILR Press, Ithaca, New York, 1997, 33.   

[19]  Len Holt, The Summer that Didn’t End: The Story of the Mississippi Civil Rights Project of 1964, Da Capo Press, New York, 1992, 107.

[20]  John Dewey, in Democracy and Education argues that thinking requires that we have an aim in view, that we learn about current and past facts for the purposes of creating ideas that we test in action. “The opposite to thoughtful action are routine and capricious behavior . . . . The latter makes the momentary act a measure of value, and ignores the connections of our personal action with the energies of the environment.  It says, virtually, ‘things are to be just as I happen to like them and this instant,’ as routine says in effect, ‘let things continue just as I have found them in the past.’ Both refuse to acknowledge responsibility for future consequences which flow from present action. Reflection is the acceptance of such responsibility” (Free Press, New York, 1966, 146).

[21]  Zinn, Reader, 534

[22]  From the Introduction to the Citizenship Curriculum

[23]  Profiles of Typical Freedom Schools, COFO memo, Jackson office (nd), SNCC, The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Papers, 1959-1972 (Sanford, NC: Microfilming Corporation of America, 1982) Reel 68, File 364, Page 0552.

[24]  Staughton Lynd, Freedomways , Second Quarter, 1965, 304.

[25]  Ibid., 304.

[26]  George W. Chilcoat and Jerry A. Ligon, “Developing Democratic Citizens: The Mississippi Freedom Schools as a Model for Social Studies Instruction,” in Theory and Research in Social Education (XXII:2, Spring 1994),147.

[27]  Len Holt, Summer, 108.

[28]  Zinn, Reader, 537

[29]  Zinn, Reader, 537. 

[30]  Chilcoat and Ligon, Constant Struggle, 122.

[31]  Chilcoat and Ligon, Constant Struggle, 122.

[32]  Chilcoat and Ligon, Constant Struggle, 124.

[33]  Zinn, Reader, 536. 

[34]  Chilcoat and Ligon, Constant Struggle, 120. 

[35] Herbert  Aptheker, A Documentary History of the Negro People in the United States. Vol. 7,  New York, Citadel Press, 1993, 282.

[36]  Holt, Summer, 110.

[37]  Holt, Summer, 109. 

[38]  Cobb, Constant Struggle, 137.  

[39]  Chilcoat and Ligon, Constant Struggle, 110.

[40]  Zinn, Reader, 539.