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Jackson Freedom Schools, August 1964

Addenda to the Curriculum Sheet on Negro History

with special attention to the period 1900-1960’s



General Remarks to Workers in Negro History:


1) Objective: To explore the history of the Negro on the American scene in the hope of developing in the students an added appreciation of the strengths and weaknesses of American patterns of race relations. Special concern should be given to Negro contributions to the culture, to white reactions, and to political problems and possibilities for the future in light of knowledge of the past.


2) Scope: Ideally, the discussions should touch upon African origins and come down, over time, to the present.


3) Coordinators: Staughton Lynd, Howard Zinn, Margaret Burnham, Bob Zangrando, among others will join in coordinating the program, and will be available as schedules permit for individual conferences. It is hoped that several among the volunteer teachers arriving August 3 will have special facilities in phases of Negro history and can be employed as preceptors for the work at-large.


4) The Project will maintain a reference library on Negro history at the Short St. office, & teachers are encouraged and expected to make maximum use of these books when they are available. On order so far are such works as:

     L. Bennett, Before the Mayflower

     J.H. Franklin, From Slavery to Freedom Schools

     M.J. Butcher, Negro in American Culture

     L. Hughes, Pictorial History of the Negro in the United States

     H. Aptheker, Documentary History of the Negro, Vols. I & II

     W.E.B. DuBois, Black Reconstruction

     W.H. Burns, Voices of the Negro Protest

     C.V. Woodward, Strange Career of Jim Crow

     R. Logan, Negro in American Life and Thougth

     W.J. Cash, Mind of the South

     J.H. Franklin, Militant South

     Brink & Harris, Negro Revolution in America

     V.L. Warton, Negro in Mississippi

     L. Highes, Famous Negro Heroes of America

     L. Lomax, The Negro Protest

     M. Herskovits, Myth of the Negro Past


There are, depending upon the specific book, from two to five copies of each of these. If teachers do not make the mistake of monopolizing more copies at any one time than they can justifiably use, the rate of circulation should be sufficient to insure maximum advantage to the Project. Other works may be added, & we hope to acquire recorded & filmed items for direct classroom use. None of these items from the Project library should be released without careful consideration of the fact that their careless distribution could hamstring the smooth operation of the program.

Sometime in the course of the month, the staff will confer (on the basis of its knowledge of the students comprising the classes) for the purpose of selecting one or two paperback books which we hope to purchase and distribute to each of the students for his own personal possession of a useful book on Negro history and culture.


5) Keeping in Touch: The teachers are encouraged to use their talents and ingenuity within the broad outline of the program. Academic freedom will, of course, be encouraged in this as in every phase of the Freedom School. C.O.F.O. headquarters can be reached, when necessary by calling 352-9605 or 352-9788, always with the realization that the lines already bear a heavy load of incoming calls. Consultation & coordination with those administering the Project is encouraged. Teachers should note, too, that Ray Rohrbaugh is in charge of the Adult classes which will meet three nights a week at Pratt Memorial Church starting August 10, a Monday.


6) Location and Registration: The daily Freedom Schools will function at seven churches about the city of Jackson. Registration for these classes will take place all day at those sites (and at Pearl Street Church) on Wednesday August 5. When the classes are functioning, they—like other phases of the Freedom Schools—should take maximum advantage of the discussion technique, the students’ participation, and perhaps the utilization of advanced and leading students as schools preceptors among their colleagues.




Naturally, topics can be added and deleted as it seems appropriate to do so in practice. The following represents suggested themes and specifics, and can complement the materials on the pink sheet (also distributed to teachers) which covers Negro history from the Civil War to the period around 1900.



The fact that the atmosphere in America was decidedly hostile toward any considerations of racial equality:

a) the abuses of Darwinism and the supposed biological distinctions between the races

b) Widespread racism, and its contemporary victims:

the Negro

the “new immigrants” from southern and eastern Europe

the natives of colonial areas in the Caribbean, Africa, and the Pacific (In other words, the specious assumptions of Anglo-Saxon superiority)

c) Nationalism and patriotic fervor demanded that the United States engage in and excel at imperialistic ventures.

d) Acquiescence by northerners in the South’s racial policies; would-be reformers distracted by industrial involvement and by sheer indifference. 


e) Passage and enforcement by southern states of Jim Crow laws.



Booker T. Washington’s emphasis on occupational, economic adjustment within a southern context. To what extent had the famous Atlanta speech of Washington played into white hands? To what extent was his position defensible?

Development of a more radical Negro protest leadership:

Niagara Movement of 1905

W.E.B. DuBois and the Soul of Black Folk

Monroe Trotter

The need for a broader, interracial protest: founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1909:

triggered by race riots in Springfield, Ill.

organized by social workers, journalists, ministers, lawyers, and other professional personnel

an example of reform during the Progressive Era on a regional basis

interracial composition: the Negro Talented Tenth is joined by white spokesmen having both influence and reputations

emphasis strong from the beginning on legal and judicial redress and interracial reform



Stimulus for adjustment: Negro migration northern cities to meet labor shortage; Negro service in the armed services during a national crisis; shift in racial question from a sectional to a national scene.

Reactions of the white community: widespread race riots: East St. Louis, Chicago, Washington, D.C., etc; increase in lynchings during the war; broadened patterns of discrimination; whites demonstrate paralyzing effects of their fear of change (here again would be an appropriate place to refer to other aspects of the curriculum on the destructive consequences of fear, hatred, uncertainty, etc.)

NAACP seeks help and protection from Federal Government; President Wilson hesitantly denounces interracial violence. He had feared to antagonize the dominant element within Congress which represented white, southern Democratic House and Senate leaders. His actions, though few and late, confirmed the impact of national and world events upon American racial patterns. In other words, the racial question was not handled on its own merits but attended to only because it might prove embarrassing to the national war effort not to act (here see the parallels with F.D.R.’s order of June 1941 on F.E.P.C. and the broader Governmental reactions to civil rights during the Cold War).



Migration of Negroes to the North had laid the base for a new political power bloc

A war to “Make the World Safe for Democracy” had opened the prospect of taking seriously the traditional American verbalizations about equality and individual dignity for all

During the 1920’s, the NAACP made the first protracted attempt in the 20th century for civil rights legislation on the Federal level; the Dyer anti-lynching bill passed the House of Representatives in 1922 but died at the threat of a southern filibuster in the Senate. Consequences:

a growing Negro contempt for the false promises of Harding, Coolidge, and the Republicans of 1920’s

the development of an awakened esprit with political possibilities within the Negro community

some educational consequences for white politicians and public on the evils of lynching and racial patterns in the South

further organizational strength for the NAACP as the then leader of the Negro protest for legal-judicial reform (success of NAACP before the Supreme Court on several instances in the 1920’s enhanced this trend)

Famous Harlem Renaissance of the 1920’s:

Wide appreciation in northern metropolitan areas for Negro contributions to art, literature, and artistic expression generally. To what extent was this phenomenon limited in its impact upon long-range interracial reforms?

Development, too, of Marcus Garvey’s Black nationalism, which appealed to quite a different audience. Why did it attract such wide attention? What did this indicate about the racial situation in the American democracy?



An expanded role for the Federal Government in socio-economic matters, with the general acceptance by the public of this heightened “federal presence” in public matters.

Some benefits to the Negro population from government work projects, but the positive features simultaneously blunted by widespread economic collapse, unemployment, and the displacement of defenseless sharecroppers and tenant farmers through agricultural reeducation programs.

New Deal breakthrough in attention to Negro affairs with the appointment of several prominent Negroes to federal agencies.

Again, raise the question of the implications of federal action upon interracial redress, the extent of such action, and the reasons why the political power structure within Congress prevented more persistent reforms from Washington.

Try to have the students see form themselves the interrelationships between economic, social, and political status and reform.

Added questions for the 1930’s centered about the competition between the NAACP and more radical proposals for Negro action. Note, for example, the friction and suspicion between NAACP and the Communist Party and the way in which the latter came to influence the National Negro Congress as a short-lived competitor of the NAACP.

Some comment, too, might be made about the development of a white southern liberal group, centering about the Commission on Interracial Cooperation out of Atlanta, Ga.



What were the consequences of the war for the Negro?

Did the American society respond to the race issue on its own merits, or did another type of crisis encourage response to Negro demands?

Negro protest leaders seek Government protection for Negroes in their fight against discrimination in the armed services and in defense employment. What did F.E.P.C. involve and why was it not totally effective?

How did the white community react? Discuss Harlem and Detroit race riots of 1943. Has there been sufficient correction of the basic problems which lay at the root of those incidents? Discuss Harlem riots of July, 1964.



What were the consequences for the society in having waged a costly and lengthy struggle against Nazi tyranny and racism? Did it affect Americans’ self-image concerning the contradictions of the domestic racial policies?

How did the Cold War and the newly won independence of former colonial areas further pressure Americans into attending to the racial question? What made the American Negro identify with African independence?

What were the implications of and results from the Truman Civil Rights proposals, 1947-1949? Although proposed, anti-lynching legislation, permanent F.E.P.C., anti-poll tax regulations, etc. were not passed on the federal level. Why not? What stumbling block prevented their enactments?

Was the Brown case of May, 1954, a sudden departure, or was it a logical step in the half-century fight for legal-judicial redress led, at that point, by the NAACP?

How did white America react: in the North? in the South? in the Border states? What are the implications of “deliberate speed” and of “massive resistance”? What elements in the power structure inhibit the fulfillment of the Brown case’s bright hope? How can they be changed? What elements in the power structure inhibit the fulfillment of the Brown case’s bright hope? How can they be changed?

What is the cause, meaning, and utility of direct action?

Discuss with the students the roles of CORE, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, SNCC, and so forth. Examine the Montgomery bus boycott, the Little Rock integration case, the sit-ins in 1960, the violence in Albany Georgia and in Birmingham. What do confrontations of this kind suggest about the present racial situations?

What are the positive and negative features of having several Negro protest groups nationally instead of merely one or two?

In what contexts were the Civil Rights Acts of 1957, 1960, and 1964 passed? What do they suggest about the power of the Negro protest and about the reactions of the white community—conservative, liberal, and uncertain elements?



What are the avenues for Negro advancement?

Will the white community, either privately or through the government, effectively resolve its own indecision on racial questions? What can help to facilitate a resolution here?

Discuss what the Negro has done and can do to help himself. Note the marked increase in action by the southern Negro.

Examine the roles of non-violence and direct action.

Examine the ways in which interracial reform can serve as a point of departure for a new moral, economic, and political revolution centering around the best tenets of democracy and carrying with it a rejuvenation of the American scene generally in matters of educational development, urban renewal, expansion of justice, broadened employment and economic consumption, international understanding, etc.

Among several that exist, what are the probable fruits of leaving solutions to the alternatives of the Citizens’ Councils, the Black Muslims, and so forth?

What can and what must a young person do about such matters?


This discussion might provide a suitable opportunity to chat with the students about a wide variety of topics, including their formal education in the future, the processes for acquiring books and reading materials on their own, etc.





The document is from:

SNCC, The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Papers, 1959-1972 (Sanford, NC: Microfilming Corporation of America, 1982) Reel 67, File 337, Page 0641.

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