One of the purposes of the Freedom Schools is to train people to be active agents in bringing about social change. We have attempted to design a developmental curriculum that begins on the level of the students’ everyday lives and those things in their environment that they have either already experienced or can readily perceive, and builds up to a more realistic perception of American society, themselves, the conditions of their oppression, and alternatives offered by the Freedom Movement.

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.

The curriculum is divided into seven units:

1. Comparison of student’s reality with others (the way the students live and the way others live)

2. North to Freedom? (the Negro in the North)

3. Examining the apparent reality (the “better lives” that whites live)

4. Introducing the power structure

5. The poor Negro and the poor white

6. Material things versus soul things

7. The movement

Each unit develops concepts that are needed for those that follow.

Physically, the content (suggested questions and concepts) is on the right side of each page with suggested case studies and visual aid material listed opposite. [Note by Emery and Gold: in this printing, the content of the curriculum is printed as normal text, the suggested case studies etc. are in italics, and inserted as documents where available.]

The suggested questions and concepts in the content portion of each page constitute the teaching guide. It should be emphasized that these are 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.

There are two additional sets of questions THAT ARE TO BE REINTRODUCED PERIODICALLY, 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.



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?



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?


Unit I—Comparison of Students’ Realities with Others

Purpose:        To create an awareness that there are alternatives

Materials:      Statistical data on education, housing, etc.

                       “The South as an Underdeveloped Country”

[Inserted by Editors:] The Poor in America


Introduction: Student, teacher each tell about themselves. We are not here to teach you. We are here to help you learn and to learn together. 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 about me.

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.



1. What kind of school is it [Negro School]? Sample questions: How many grades does it have? How many classrooms? What is it made of, wood or brick? Do you have textbooks, new or old? Do you have a library, movies, maps, charts, electric lights, a gymnasium? How many teachers, white or Negro? Laboratory space and equipment, desks, blackboards, etc.? Do you have history, geography, science, foreign language, etc.?

2. What do you learn there? Sample questions: How many go to college? Are there trade or vocational schools? What kinds of jobs are you prepared for? What about current events—who do you learn is good, who do you learn is bad, what do you learn about the South, about the North, about Negroes, about whites, about Kennedy, Johnson, Eastland, Castro etc. What do you learn about voting and citizenship?

3. Where do you learn about these things? Radio, newspapers, TV, etc.

4. Is this good or bad? Can you think of anything that you would like to see changed? How could your school be made better?



Where do the white children go to school? What are their schools like? Compare Negro schools with white schools.

Visual Aids (pictures of school, laboratories, school libraries, school rooms, gymnasiums.)

Here are some pictures of other schools in other states besides Mississippi (or some in Mississippi, too.)

Sample questions: Do you like these schools in the pictures? Are they like your school? How are they different? Why would you like to have better schools? What do you see in the pictures that is different from you and your school? Why do these differences exist?



Sample questions: Where do you live? How many rooms are there? How many people live with you? How many beds do you have? Is your house made of wood or stone or bricks? What color is it? Is it painted? Is there water, electricity, bathroom indoors? What kind of stove—wood, gas, kerosene, electric? Do you have heat in the winter? What kind? Furniture? What kind, how much? Can you think of any kind of changes you’d like to see, or any other kinds of houses you’d like to live in?

Questions: Where do white children live in this town? What kinds of houses—are there houses different? How? Better? How? Where does the Police Chief live? The banker? The store owner, etc.?

Visual Aids (pictures of both rural and suburban middle-class houses, modern bedrooms, bathroom, kitchens, living rooms, etc.) Do you like these pictures? These houses? Are they like your house? How are they different? Would you like this kind of house? Why?

NOTE: Discuss relationships between housing and schools (i.e. privacy, a place to study, quiet and books in the home, as related to studying) and housing and health (i.e., overcrowding, unheated housing as related to ease of sharing communicable diseases such as colds, TB, and infant mortality rates; bring in statistics on Negro-white life expectancy and mortality rates in Mississippi)

Question: Why do these differences exist?



Adult Employment (men and women):

Sample questions: Who works in your family? What kind of work does your father do? Your mother? Do they work for white people or for Negroes? Who works most (mother or father)? Do they get paid a lot or a little? What do they do with the money they make? —pay rent, buy food, buy clothes, buy things for you? Do you think they could use more money? Why? Why don’t they get more money?

Children’s employment.

Sample questions: Do you ever work? What kind of work? After school? Or do you have to stay home from school to work sometimes? What happens when you stay home? Do you miss learning? If so, why do you have to do it?

Employment for Whites.

Sample questions: in this town, what kind of jobs do white people do? Are there any Negro police or firemen, or store owners? Do Negroes work as clerks or cashiers in the store or the bank? Are there any Negroes who have tenant farmers, any Negro lawyers? Doctors, Negroes who work at the textile mills?

What kinds of jobs do people do? List responses and suggest areas through questions if necessary, i.e., who fixes cars, who makes our clothes, who sells them, who makes cars, airplanes, rockets, who builds houses, who invents machines (shoe last, air brake, telephone, etc.), who writes books, who fixes radios, plumbing, electricity, who drives tractors and mechanical cotton-pickers?

Break up into small groups and see which group can make up the largest list of jobs that people have, and what duties these jobs have.

Question: Can Negroes do these jobs? Are they smart enough? Do some Negroes do these jobs? If not, why not?

Questions: Can anyone name:

1.      A Negro inventor (George Washington Carver, Jan Matzeliger, Elijah McCoy)

2.      A Negro scientist (Dr. Charles Drew, Benjamin Banneker, Dr. Daniel Hale Williams.)

3.      A Negro writer (Richard Wright, Phyllis Wheatley, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Alexander Dumas, W.E.B. DuBois, Langston Hughes, M.L. King, Septima Clark, etc.)

Material on Negroes in various fields, pictures, stories, etc. Poetry reading and discussion. Photos or drawings of Negroes and Negro history figures should be posted.


Negro employment and white—salary comparison, etc. Review what has been discussed.



Is there any hospital here? Where do you (your parents) go if they are sick, have a baby, a car accident, etc.? Where is the nearest hospital? Is it for Negroes, white, both? If there are different hospitals for Negroes and whites, compare facilities. (How close are they? How many beds, doctors, operating rooms, etc.)


Review Unit I. (Include schools, housing, employment, health)

Suggested approach: We’ve talked about jobs and health in Mississippi and in other states, and we have seen that Negroes have to live one way and whites another. Remember, we found out that your schools were (list) and we found out that other schools were/had (list), etc.

Question: What can we do about this?


Re-introduce three basic questions:

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

2. What is the Freedom Movement?

3. What does the Freedom Movement have to offer you?



Unit II—North to Freedom? (The Negro in the North)

Purpose:        To help the students see clearly the condition of the Negro in the North, and see that migration to the North is not a basic solution.

Summary:      Starting with a new clarity of their conditions in the South to raise the question of whether the Negro can escape oppression by going North.

Materials:      Chester, Pennsylvania,

                       New York City Schools

[Inserted by Editors:] Triple Revolution


Suggested Introduction: Map of U.S. with the South shaded. Point out each city.

For years Negroes in Mississippi and other Southern states have seen how hard Jim Crow makes them live, just as we have talked about the last few days. In fact, since l950, Negroes have left Mississippi (use census figures.) Where have they gone? Most of them have moved North, to Chicago, Detroit, New York, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Washington, Baltimore, Boston, etc. They have gone North looking for better jobs, more money, better schools, good hospitals, better housing. Now there are more than one million Negroes in New York City alone. Do you think that they’ve found what they were looking for? How do you know?

Magazine pictures of city skyscrapers, bright lights, wide avenues, etc., Here is what some of those cities look like.

But how is it for the Negro?

They have had school boycotts to protest against segregation in Chicago, New York, Boston. Why?


Case Studies: NYC Schools and Chester, Pa.


Cover the Same Topics as in Unit I

Questions: Picture or other materials on the ghetto. Do you have relatives there? What do they say about the North? Do you have to say “yessir” to white men there? Do you have better housing in the slums or only crowded bad housing? Do you have better jobs in the North? (The median income of Negro families, nationally, in l960, was half that of white families.) Does it cost more to live? How about schools? —better buildings, but still segregated, still overcrowded, still old textbooks, still few college graduates?

How about housing? More integrated neighborhoods in the South. In the North, housing very expensive and more expensive for bad housing. Negroes still can’t work at some jobs and they are paid less money. The overcrowding means there is more TB in Negro ghettos and a higher infant mortality rate. (30 percent higher among Negroes than whites).

Conclude: Itemize similarities in areas covered in Unit I (housing, jobs, schools, health).


Question: Are things better in the North? Is the Negro really free, equal? Why not?

Conclude: The Negro is a second-class citizen all over the U.S., and you can’t escape by leaving the South.


Introduce questions:

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

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

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



Unit III—Examining the Apparent Reality (The “Better Life” That Whites Have)

Purpose:        To find out what the whites’ “better life” (better schools, jobs, housing, health facilities, etc.) is really like, and what it costs them.

Materials:      Guide to Negro History, parts 1-3.

[Inserted by Editors:] In White America

[Inserted by Editors:] Negro History Addendum I

[Inserted by Editors:] Negro History Addendum II

[Inserted by Editors:] Negro History Study Questions

[Inserted by Editors:] Development of Negro Power


Introduction, Suggestions: We have seen that Negroes live differently than whites in Mississippi and in the rest of the U.S.—and it seemed that whites go to better schools, get better jobs, and live in better houses than Negroes.

Reintroduce pictures of school. Let us see if it’s as good as it looks. The nice, new building, the laboratories, the school libraries, the gyms, and new textbooks and so on.


Concept: What education is.


Suggested questions: What do people learn in school beside reading, writing, and arithmetic? Do they learn things about other people? What? About jobs? What? About their country? What? About their city or town? About their government? About what they believe? About other countries? What?

1. Repeat pledge of allegiance. Analyze it: does it mean everything it says? When you say it, what does it teach you about your country and what it believes?

2. Recite the “Bill of Rights.” Analyze it: Does it teach us about our country’s beliefs? What? What does Freedom of Assembly mean? Does it mean you have the right to come together and demonstrate? If so, why do demonstrators go to jail? What does Freedom of Worship mean? Does it mean you can go into any church? If so, why do people get arrested at kneel-ins? What does Freedom of Speech mean? Do you have a right to say what you wish about voting and freedom and other things at rallies and meetings at Freedom Schools? Do you have a right to say what you wish on leaflets and are you free to distribute them? If not, why not?

Question: Are these things the truth? Are they just ideals that we talk about or do Americans really believe them and practice them? Why could this be?


Concept: That truth, freedom, liberty, equality, and other ideals are often distorted and used as excuses and justifications for contradictory actions.


Questions: Are there any other things that the schools teach us that are untrue—myths? Can you point out any of the myths that are taught in the schools? What do the schools teach about Negroes?


NOTE: There is a real opportunity here for the teacher (white or middle-class Negro), if he can be honest and searching enough, to share the misinformation or myths he learned about Negroes and/or himself, and use his experience to help deepen the insights of the students.

Suggested supplements to students’ lists:

1. That all Negroes were slaves.

2. That Negroes are inferior—mentally, morally, physically.

3. That Negroes were happy and satisfied as slaves (well-fed and singing and dancing on the plantation)

4. That Negroes are happy and satisfied now.

5. That Negroes are incapable of participating in government.

6. That Negroes don’t want to participate in government.

7. That Negroes are lazy.

8. That Negroes can only do menial work and nothing more.


Examine each of these myths.

Questions: How do you know these myths aren’t true? Can you give examples?

Suggestion: Let us explore history and see how true these myths are (take them one at a time).


Case study: Guide to Negro History


Myth: That Negroes were happy and satisfied as slaves.


(Present Guide to Negro History in storytelling style first, then have students dramatize extemporaneously, using their own words.)

NOTE: the dramatization of a slave revolt can serve an important function by permitting students to vent repressed hostility and aggression against whites and their condition.


Case Study—Guide to Negro History, Part II: Negro Resistance to Oppression


Raise myth again. Question: What do you think now? Were Negroes happy as slaves?


Myth: That Negroes don’t want to participate in government and are incapable of participating.


Case Study—Guide to Negro History, part III: Reconstruction (1865-1877) and the Beginning of Segregation


Raise myth again: Question: if Negroes can and want to participate in politics, why don’t they?



Myth: Negroes are inferior mentally, morally, and physically, and can do only menial work. Cassius Clay and Joe Louis: list other accomplishments of outstanding Negroes in music, science, etc.


Case Study—Guide to Negro History, part I: Origins of Prejudice (1600‑1800)


Raise myth again. Question: Why is this kind of myth started?



Concept: the effect on a person’s self-image, motivation, and achievement when presented with low expectations (as exemplified by these myths.)


Questions: how do you feel in school when a teacher calls you “stupid” or “dumb”? Do you try harder or do you give up? Are you angry? (Set up other examples within the students’ experience.)

Questions: What does this kind of myth do to you? Does it make you try? Does it make you proud to be Negro?


Discussion: Reintroduce three basic questions:

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

2. What is the Freedom Movement?

3. What alternative does the Freedom Movement have to offer?


We’ve talked about some of the myths that the schools teach; let us see what some of the others are.

NOTE: At this point schools might use the discussion method to try to help the students discover other myths from their own experience or what they have seen or heard on TV or the movies, etc. They might even be asked to recite the plots of war movies or cowboy and Indian movies, and then follow up with questions, etc. (I.e., why are the Indians always bad and savage? Why are Negroes always domestic savages? {servants?])

Question: What do these movies teach us?

Review entire Unit III. What is taught in the schools and through other media? The myths of our society (enumerate) and what the effect of these myths is on the Negro (and other Americans) and what purposes these serve.


Re-introduce three secondary questions:

1. What does the American majority society have that we want?

2. What does it have that we don’t want?

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



Unit IV—Introducing the Power Structure

Purpose:        1. To create an awareness that some people profit by the pain of others or by misleading them;

                       2. To create an awareness that some people make decisions that profoundly affect others (i.e., bare power);

                       3. To develop the concept of “political power.”

Summary:      Starting with the material learned in preceding units on Negro-white differences in education, housing, etc. and the use of myths to distort and misinform, to develop a concept of who constructs the myths, who profits from them, and how they profit both in local (town and state of Mississippi) terms and in larger terms. And to name these people as “decision-makers” and “the power structure.”

Materials:      Mississippi Power Structure;

                       The Power of the Dixiecrats

[Inserted by Editors:] Nazi Germany


Review—suggested approach: Let’s see what we have learned so far. We have learned that Negroes and whites live differently in both the South and the North and that Negroes are not given equal treatment in housing, education, etc. We have learned that although it seems that white people have better schools, for instance, that they pay for it by learning lies, and by learning to “hate” and be afraid. We have learned that we are misled by these lies too—that the myths have taught us to believe that we are inferior and dumb and that we have made no contributions to our society.

Now we want to find out why the schools tell these lies and find out who is helped by these lies.


Concept: That the myths serve a purpose by:

1. Keeping Negroes servile and teaching whites to feel superior.

2. Providing a justification for race relations in this country.


Questions: Why do the schools tell these lies? Who hears and believes them? What do they believe? How does it make them feel to believe these things? Do the lies give them excuses? What kinds of excuses do the lies provide:


* If a white man kills a Negro?

* If a policeman beats a Negro for demonstrating?

* If a policeman beats a white demonstrator?

* If a Negro is refused the vote?

* If a Negro tries to integrate a school?

* If Negroes are paid less money for the same work?

* If white workers want to start a union?


Now, who profits by these lies? Let’s start here in this town.


Case Study: Mississippi Power Structure, Part I.


Concept: That some people profit by the propagation of myths (make money, gain power, bolster up their egos, etc.,)

Question: Who makes money when Negroes are paid less than white people? Ask students about plantations near where they live; about factories near where they live.

Example: A cotton farmer’s profit is the price he gets for his cotton minus what he pays for labor. Does the farmer make more money if the workers he hires are Negro? Why? Is it profitable for the farmer to keep Negro labor cheap? How does he do it? Do the myths help him do it? How?

Example: Why does Northern industry come to Mississippi? They come from the North because Mississippi has cheaper labor and they can make more money. Why does Mississippi have cheap labor? Because there are no unions? Because there are white workers in Mississippi who are told that unions believe in integration. Where there are no unions, the workers are paid less and the businessman makes more money. Do the myths help to keep the salaries low for whites too? (Caution: many unions maintain segregationist practices.)

Question: Why don’t white people want the Negro to vote?

Example: The same farmer is able to pay Negroes less money than white people are paid because the state laws of Mississippi support segregation and inequality. Who makes these laws? How do they get their jobs? Who elects them? What would happen to these men and these laws if Negroes voted? Would you vote for a man who made laws that paid you less? Does the farmer vote for them? Does the business man? Do white workers? Why?


Concept: That poor whites suffer from the myths too.

Questions: If there was a union, the white workers would make more money too. Why, then, do they vote for politicians who are against unions? Are they more afraid of something else? Why are they so afraid of integration? What have the myths and lies that they have learned done to them? Who profits by this? The rich farmer? The rich businessman? How?


Concept: That the police work for the power structure and enforce the status quo.

Example: The following is an excerpt from one of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s press conferences in l938, when he unsuccessfully attempted to purge Southern reactionaries from the Democratic Party. Roosevelt described the experience of union organizers in a Southern town in a way that makes one think of COFO today:

They got in town about ten o’clock in the morning. They had a list of eight or ten of the operators. They were going to see them at the noon hour.

So they went to the factory and they asked, “Where is so and so? Where can I find so and so?”

They were engaged in asking questions, when one of the mill police tapped him on the shoulder and showed his badge and said, “Come with me.”

He said, “We have not done anything; we are outside and on the street and just asking to see some fellows.”

“Oh, we know; come with me.”

They were taken to the police station and locked up in a cell on the charge of vagrancy. Both of them had, oh, fifteen or twenty dollars apiece in their clothes.

They said, “We are not vagrants; we came down here from such and such a city.”

“But you are organizers.”

“Of course we are organizers.”

“Well, you are in a bad place.”

They were kept in jail until five o’clock, just before dark, and the judge came in and said, “What are you doing here?”

“We are down here to try to start an organization of the textile workers of this mill.”

“That is what you think,” he said. “Ten dollars find and out of town before six o’clock, and do not come back.”

They did not know what they were fined for, but they paid the fine, and as they went out of the courtroom, one of the marshals, or policemen, went up to them and said, “Which way are you boys going?” They said, “We have got to get out of town and we thought we would go to such and such a town, ten miles away.”

They rode with him and he said, “This is where I turn off.” They went about a quarter of a mile and out of a clump of bushes came some men with blackjacks and they got the worst beating up that any two people could get without getting killed.”


Question: Who helps to keep the Negro from voting and the union from starting? Who helps the farmer and businessman make money by enforcing the segregation laws? Who pays the police? Who gives them their orders? Why? What would happen to a policeman who didn’t obey orders? Why do the police follow orders?


Important to bring out:

           1. For pay

           2. For illicit gains from graft, etc.

           3. Because they have learned the myths too, and “hate”

and “fear”


Case Study: Mississippi Power Structure, Part II


What is a power structure? That is the name we give to groups of men who make the myths, who profits from them like the farmer and the businessman who pay the police and give them their orders, who make the laws and decide what laws they want, who make decisions about who gets paid and how much they get, about who votes and who doesn’t vote, about what is taught in the schools, and what gets printed in the newspapers., etc.

Can you name some of these men in your town? (Suggestions: look for the mayor, big plantation owners, businessmen, plant managers, mill owners, etc.)


Suggestion: With the information you get from either students, parents, or COFO research staff, construct an organizational chart of the power structure on the blackboard or large paper.




Show how a decision made on the upper level gets passed down through the chain of command and finally implemented.

Example: Dramatize if possible. A Negro tries to register. The registrar of voters fails him, and calls the Mayor. The next day the plantation owner fires him and orders him off the land, and his name is published in the newspaper. The bank forecloses on his car, and the store refuses him any more credit and the county welfare department says he must get three references from white people before he is eligible for relief. His wife is fired from her job as a cook for a white family. When they move in with relatives, the house is shot up one night and the Negro man arrested on “Suspicion.”


Concept: That the Power Structure is a connecting and interlocking series of cliques that goes from local towns and cities up to the highest levels of the national government.


Case Study: The Power of the Dixiecrats.


We have seen that there is what we call a power structure in this town—a small group of men that make the decisions in this town—they run it, they decide when schools are built and what is taught. They decide, as much as they can, who votes and who doesn’t; they decide who gets a loan from the bank; they make the laws. In every other town and country of this state, there are other men who do the same things—who make the plans and decide what will happen for all the rest of us. They decide who will run for the United States Congress; they pay for the campaigns; they decide what laws will be made; and they help to make the myths that we all learn.

Southern representatives in Congress, acting on behalf of the Southern power structure, obstruct progress not only in the South but in the whole nation. Because of the one-party system in the South, these representatives serve in the House and Senate over and over again. Their seniority enables them to become chairmen of key committees. Examples: Senator Eastland of Mississippi is the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, influences the appointment of judges to the Federal Courts in which civil rights demonstrators are tried.


Discussion: Review entire Unit IV. Raise and answer the three basic questions. Raise and answer the three secondary questions.



Unit V—The Poor Negro, the Poor White, and their Fears

Purpose:        1. To indicate that the Power Structure derives its power in the final analysis, by playing upon the fears of the people, Negro and white;

2. To come to an understanding of these fears—what has helped to produce them and what they, in turn, have produced, namely, the myths, the lies, the system;

3. To grasp the deeper effects of the system we have produced and have allowed to continue, the deep psychological damage to Negroes and whites.

Materials:      Case Study on Hazard, Kentucky


Introduction: We have talked about the world we want and the world we now have. Something is wrong with the world we have. We have looked at some of the wrong things. Now let us look at why the world has come to be as it now is . . . in particular, our world here in the South.


Concept: That the “power structure”—which, as we have seen, is one force that maintains a bad world—derives its power from playing upon the fears of the people, Negro and white.

Questions: Have you ever been afraid? Have you every been afraid enough to let somebody else take your punishment or take the blame for something they did not do? Were you afraid of being punished yourself? What is punishment? Physical pain like a beating? Could punishment also be losing something you wanted to keep? Like money? Like your pride? When you were a child, were you ever punished by having to stay inside the house, or in your room, or stand in the corner at school? Was this punishment loss of pride?

Here are some things we have learned about the “power structure.” (Write them on the blackboard.)

1. The “power structure” is made up of a small number of people who, because of their power, have a great deal of control over our lives.

2. Their power is financial and it is political.

3. They use their power to maintain segregation.

Here is something we do not know about the “power structure.” Why is it possible for such a small group to have so much control over all the rest of us? Is it only because they have money? If so, where do they get their money? Is it because of their political power? Where do they get the political power? Could it be that the “power structure” has power because we let it? That these few control us because we let them? Why? Why would we let a few people not only control us but control us in such a terrible way, build such a terrible world?

Do we like what they do? No? Then why do we let them do it? Are we afraid? What about whites? Are they afraid? Do they like to be controlled by a few people? Does anybody? What about poor whites? Isn’t their condition much like ours? Poverty, unemployment, fear?

Is it true that the “power structure” has power only because we give it to them—we and the whites. The power structure is built upon the fear of Negroes and the fear of whites. What if we moved out from under this structure? Where would be power go then? To the people? The whites will not move because they fear us because they believe the lies about us. Is it possible to show these whites the truth? How? What would happen if the whites and Negroes got together and moved right out from under the “power structure”? Do we have anything in common that might draw us together? What? What keeps us apart? Fear? Yes.

The “power structure” gets its power, in the final analysis, because we allow them power and we allow them power because we are afraid of something.


Concept: That the people of the South, Negro and white, are afraid; that the fears are sometimes different, sometimes alike; that all the fears work together to perpetuate the system.

Questions: Why should Negroes be afraid? Is there any real basis for our fear? Of course there is. We have been beaten and murdered, have lost our jobs and homes. We have real reason to fear. What about whites? Do most whites agree with the “power structure” and the lies? Why? Are they afraid? Why?

Let us imagine what might have happened inside the white man, over the years, to fill him with so much fear. We know in part already what happened to make the Negro fear—he was shot and lynched and murdered and beaten. What made the white fear? Write on board “What Happened Inside the White Man?” Let’s list the things which might have caused him to create myths and lies.


1. Slavery: since the white man in the South lies about Negroes, let us begin with the coming of Negroes. We came from an unknown continent and we were unknown to the whites. Can we compare this lack of knowledge with, say, Columbus’ day when men said if you sailed far enough, you would fall right off the earth? So the white men looked at us and we were unknown. They created myths—Africa is a deep dark place filled with savages.

2. Guilt: it is true that the white man did not know and still does not know much about Negroes. But it is also true that no man in his right mind can put any other man in chains without, sooner or later, feeling guilt.

Not long after the beginning of slavery, the guilt of the white man began. What did he do with this guilt inside him? He did not free us? Why?

3. Economics: the white man needed the Negro to work the plantation. He chose then not to free the Negro and so he had to find some other way to get rid of his guilt. What did he do to try to get rid of it?

4. Fear and lies: What does guilt do to you? Have you ever felt guilty? Does it make you afraid inside? What does fear do? Suppose you have done something you know to be wrong and you are first guilty and then afraid? Do you make up lies to get out of it? Have you ever tried to excuse yourself? Protect yourself? The white man did. He wanted to keep his slaves but he wanted very much to get rid of his guilt . . . so he made up lies: He said Negroes were not really human, therefore there is no reason for me to feel guilty. And from guilt came the whole lie of white supremacy/Negro inferiority . . . and from guilt came segregation.


As we saw, the power structure uses segregation to keep poor Negroes and poor whites from working together to solve their common problems. Segregation is also the white man’s program for hiding away the cause of his guilt—the Negro—hiding him in slums, segregated schools, backyards. Segregation is a wall the white man builds to hide from you, the cause of his guilt . . . and by hiding you, to hide from his own conscience.

Negroes and whites are afraid. Negroes have reason to be afraid. Whites are afraid because of guilt. When Negroes are afraid, they continue to go along with the system. The same is true of whites. And so we say that: there is great fear in the South and it is from this fear that the “power structure” derives its power, from fear that the system keeps going. What do fear and lies do to people?


Concept: that the fear we have felt and the lies we have lived and the guilt have done great damage to us all, Negro and white.

Questions: What happens to you when you keep telling a lie over and over? Do you finally believe it? If you do not believe it, what happens inside to keep telling it anyway? What happens if you are afraid of something for a long long time? Does it change you inside? Does fear finally destroy something in you? What about guilt? If you are guilty of something and have to hide for a long long time, what happens? Are you happy? Free?

Draw a stick figure on the board—a man standing tall and straight. Here is man. He stands tall and straight as he is meant to stand. Draw a man stooped with his head hung down. Here is man again. What do you feel when you look at this figure? Tired? Old? Ashamed? Sick? Draw a stick figure stooped behind a fence or wall. What about this man? What do you feel? Fear? Hiding? What is alike about these two figures? They are bent. Is the first man bent?

Point to the first stooped figure. Have you ever seen a real person walk or stand this way? A Negro? A white man? Why? Age? Illness? Shame? Fear? Guilt? How about the other figure? Have you seen that? Which figure do you like? Why?

What do these figures represent? Above the two stooped figures draw arrows pointing down upon them and pressing them down. What do these arrows do? What do they represent?

We are talking about what lies do to people. What do you think about this? Do lies destroy something in man? Yes. Living, telling, or believing lies destroys something in us all. If somebody tells you that you are bad or lazy or inferior or guilty—you can either believe them or not. Suppose you do not believe them. Suppose you know better, but still they continue to tell you are bad . . . what happens inside you? Anger? Frustration? Despair? Sickness? Suppose you believe the lies? Do you know Negroes who have come to believe that they are inferior? How do they act? How do they stand? Walk? What about whites? Have you seen the face of a white man twisted in hate, fear, anger? Is it the face of a free man? A happy man? Have you seen the empty faces of whites on Main Street—faces that look through you—blank and empty. Are they the faces and eyes of free and happy people? No. No, they are not. White men have lost their health too—the health of their minds and of their bodies . . . from living the lies. No man can live the lie without being bent. The whole South is bent . . . and broken.

Can we really compare Negroes and whites in this matter of being free? It is clear to anyone who looks around that Negroes are not free to grow, to move about, to learn and develop and become whole inside. How about whites? Look down the biggest street in town. You see find houses, cars, pools, trees, lawns. Do most whites live this way? Do whites who live this way have freedom? Does it show in their faces? If they had freedom, why would they also have fear? Do free men fear? Why would they have hatred? If they were free, why would they lock the doors of their big houses? What about the rest of the whites? Those who have no fine houses and cars? What do they have? White skin? Are they free then? Is the KKK a group of happy men?

No. No, we are not free and not happy. Because we are bent, broken, divided, not whole. We have taken a piece of ourselves and turned it over the “power structure” which is simply to say, we have turned ourselves over to a lie.

1. The “power structure” is one force that helps to maintain the world; in the South, that helps to maintain the terrible world of segregation.

2. That “power structure” derives its power, in the final analysis, from the fears of both whites and Negroes.

3. Poor whites and Negroes are oppressed by the “power structure.” We have much in common.

4. If poor whites and Negroes could get together and move out from under the “power structure,” it would fall.

5. We do not move because we are afraid.

6. Generally, the Negro’s fear is based upon very real danger.

7. Generally, the white’s fear is based upon guilt.

8. Fear—whatever the cause—produces lies. We live in the South.

9. Living lies bends and breaks us.

10. That is to say—keeps us from being whole.

That is to say—keeps us from being free.


Have you ever heard this: “Ye shall know the Truth and the Truth shall make you free?”

Have we seen in this unit that lies and the fear behind lies and the guilt behind the fear . . . work together to enslave men?

If lies enslave us, then Truth will free us.

What IS the Truth? That is . . . what will make us free?

In the next unit, we will try to find the answer to the question: What is the Truth? Or, the same question: What is freedom?



Unit VI—Material Things and Soul Things

Purpose:        1. To develop insights about the inadequacies of pure materialism;

                       2. To develop some elementary concepts of a new society.

Summary:      Starting with a questioning of whether the material things have given the “power structure” satisfaction, to raise the question of whether achievement will bring the Negro and/or the poor white fulfillment. Then to explore whether the conditions of his oppression have given the Negro insights and values that contribute to the goal of a more human society. And finally to develop this relevance into some insights as to the characteristics of a new society.

Materials:      Statements of Discipline of Nonviolent Movements.


Introduction: The last few days we have been exploring in another world—different than the one we live in everyday—the world of the “power structure,” and we have made some interesting discoveries:

1. That the “power structure” has a lot of power to make things happen just as they want them to be.

2. That the “power structure” has a lot of money that buys—big, luxurious houses, expensive cars, expensive clothing, trips, and all the other things we see on TV and in the movies.


But we’ve also discovered that—

1. The “power structure” is afraid of losing its power and its money; and

2. The “power structure” is afraid of Negroes and poor whites find out the “truth” and getting together.


Ideas to be developed:

1. The possessions of men do not make them free. Negroes will not be freed by:

     a. Taking what the whites have.

     b. A movement directed at materialistic ends only.

2. The structure of society can be altered.

3. While a radically new social structure must be created in order to give man the room to grow in, it is not the changing of structure alone that produces a good life or a good world. It is also the ethical values of the individual.

4. There are many kinds of power we could use to build a new society.


Concept: That just taking the “power structure’s” money and power would not make us happy either.

We have seen that having money and power does not make the “power structure” happy. We have seen that they have to pay a price for it.

Questions: Would just taking their money and power away and keeping it ourselves make us happy? Wouldn’t we have to be afraid and distrust people too? Wouldn’t we have to make up lies to convince ourselves that we were right? Wouldn’t we have to make up lies to convince other people that we were right? Wouldn’t we, too, have to keep other people down in order to keep ourselves up?

Suppose you had a million dollars. You could buy a boat, a big car, a house, clothes, food, and many good things. But could you buy a friend? Could you buy a spring morning? Could you buy health? And how could we be happy without friends, health, and spring?

This is a freedom movement; suppose this movement could get a good house and job for all Negroes. Suppose Negroes had everything that the middle class of America has . . . everything that the rest of the country has . . . would it be enough? Why are there heart attacks and diseases and so much awful unhappiness in the middle class . . . which seems to be so free? Why the Bomb?


Concept: That the structure of society can be changed. Discussion of a possible new society.

1. Money—should a few people have a lot of money, should everybody have the same, should everybody have what they need?

2. Jobs—should men be able to work at any job they can do and like, regardless of color, religion, nationality? Suppose a man were put out of a job by automation (like the mechanical picker?) What should happen to him? Should he just sit around? Should he be trained for a new job? Who can train him? When he is old, should he have to depend on his family or be poor? Should he be helped when he is old? Why? Should all workers join together if they wish? Should they share in the profits? Why?

3. Housing—Should every family be able to live where they wish to live, regardless of race or religion? Why? Should every family have a decent home? Should it have heat, a kitchen, a bathroom, hot water, nice furniture? Why does the kind of house a family has affect their family life? Suppose a family does not have enough money? Does a family have a basic right to good housing?

4. Health—should all people have a right to receive the same medical services regardless of religion or race or money? Should all people be able to receive whatever medical services they need regardless of how rich or poor they are? Why? From whom?

5. Education—Should all children be able to go to the same schools regardless of their race or religion? Should all children have the right to get as much education as they are capable of? Suppose they can’t afford to go to special high schools or to college? Should they still be able to go? How? Who should pay?

What should be taught in schools? Do we teach myths and lies? Why? Should we? Should we train people for jobs in schools? To be good citizens? What else should we train people for?—culture, resourcefulness, world citizenship, respect for other people and cultures, peace?

What about teaching adults? Should they have a chance too? Should it be free? Should they be able to go to special schools if necessary?

6. Legal—Should the laws and the courts treat all people the same? Should the laws be more concerned with protecting the property a man has or the man himself? Why?

7. Political system—should every man have the right to vote? What if he cannot read? Should he still have the right to vote and choose his representatives? Should politicians have a right to give out favors? Can they be honest in this system? Suppose people can get good housing, jobs, health services, etc., in other ways . . . will they need political favors?

8. Mass media—should newspapers, TV, magazines tell the truth? Should that be their basic job? Should they have to support themselves by advertising? How else could they get enough money?

9. International relations—how should we want to treat other countries? Should we help them if we have more than they do? Should we work for peace? Can we have peace if we keep building bigger bombs and faster planes? (What does fear do, threats? What about children fighting?)

10. Cultural life—are artists, actors, musicians, and writers important? Why? Should art and acting and music and writing be considered work? Should there be free concerts and free plays for everyone to see? Why?


Concept: It is not simply the changing of the structure of society that will make a good world, but the ethical values of the individual.

What if men were just naturally bad to each other-if they didn’t care about each other? Would it matter about the structure of society? Are men good to each other because of laws? What is an ethical value? Would it matter about the structure of society? Are men good to each other because of law? What is an ethical value?

Discuss “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Do you have a set of values? Are society’s laws enough? Are your own personal “laws” important, too? Are they even more important that society’s laws?


Case Study: Statements of Discipline of Nonviolent Movements.


Is the movement the germ of a new society? How do people act toward each other in the movement? How do people act toward each other in Freedom School? How does this way of life differ from the way of life of the larger society? We must keep these good ethical and spiritual values in the new society which we build.


Concept: That there are many kinds of power we could use to build a better society. What is power? (Power is the ability to move things.) What kinds of power are there? Discuss.



Police state

One party
No vote
Unjust laws

Citizens Council
control, banks, jobs etc

Physical Power
(Power to coerce or frighten)

Political Power
(Power to influence)

Economic Power
(Power to buy)
Freedom Movement

Federal intervention

Convention Challenge
Negro candidates



Do these “powers” balance each other? Do they succeed in bringing the two sides together or do they tend to pull apart? Are there other kinds of power?


Truth Power

(Power to Convince or Persuade)

Does persuasion pull people apart? Is it a different kind of power? Can we use truth to reveal the lies and myths? What happens once they are revealed? Once someone is convinced or persuaded, can they join with us? Is the better world for them too?


Soul Power

(The Power to Love)

Can you love everyone like you love your family or your friends? What does compassion mean? Is that a kind of love? Is there something in other people that is like what is in you? Can soul power change things? How?





Units I to VI of the Citizenship Curriculum were written by Noel Day, and modified for the Freedom Schools by Jane Stembridge.


The document is from:

SNCC, The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Papers, 1959-1972 (Sanford, NC: Microfilming Corporation of America, 1982) Reel 67, File 340, Page 0830.

The original papers are at the King Library and Archives, The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, Atlanta, GA