Freedom Summer 1965 & Its 30 Schools
Thirty Freedom Schools in Mississippi
also established 30 Freedom Schools in towns throughout
Mississippi. Volunteers taught in the schools and the curriculum
now included black history, the philosophy of the
civil rights movement. During the summer of 1964 over 3,000
students attended these schools and the experiment provided a
model for future educational programs such as
Freedom Schools were often targets of white mobs. So also were
the homes of local African Americans involved in the campaign.
That summer 30 black homes and 37 black churches were
firebombed. Over 80 volunteers were beaten by white mobs or
racist police officers.
There are 108 students attending the McComb
Freedom School. After it was bombed, the students continued
classes on the burnt grass only yards from where three
explosions had ripped out a wall. Joyce Brown's poem was
instrumental in moving the community to provide another meeting
place for the School. Professor Staughton Lynd, Freedom School
Director, cites this incident as a case where "the presence of a
Freedom School helped to loosen the hard knot of fear and to
organize the Negro community."
The Freedom School project was proposed in
late 1963 by Charles Cobb, a Howard University student. The
purpose, he said, "is to create an educational experience for
students which will make it possible for them to challenge the
myths of our society, to perceive more clearly its realities,
and to find alternatives — ultimately new directions for
action." A year later there were 41 functioning schools in 20
communities in the state of Mississippi with an enrollment of
2,135 students — twice the number expected and planned for.
Group discussion is the heart of the Schools'
activities. As one COFO Guide to teachers suggests: "In the
matter of classroom procedure, questioning is the vital tool. It
is meaningless to flood the student with information he cannot
understand; questioning is the path to enlightenment... The
value of the Freedom Schools will derive mainly from what the
teachers are able to elicit from the students in terms of
comprehension and expression of their experiences."
In their war against the academic poverty of
Mississippi, where four times as much is spent per capita for
the white student as for the Negro student, the Freedom Schools
try to offer as many academic courses as they can: chemistry,
algebra, remedial reading and math, Negro History, journalism.
But they go far beyond mere formal classes of instruction. They
are focal points for personal expression against oppression on
the one hand, and for personal growth and creativity, on the
In the words of Mrs. Carolyn Reese,
administrator of the Hattiesburg Freedom Schools, "The Freedom
Schools mean an exposure to a totally new field of learning, new
attitudes about people, new attitudes about self, and about the
right to be dissatisfied with the status quo.
The children have no conception that
Mississippi is a part of the United States; their view of
American history is history with no Negroes in it. It's like
making a cake with no butter... The children are learning that
somebody is supposed to listen to them. They are writing letters
to the editor of the Hattiesburg newspapers, and learning where
to direct their complaints."
Every school is different, and teachers are
encouraged to bring their own supplies and to use their own
imagination. A typical day's schedule might look like this:
(7-9) Concentrated individual work on areas of students'
particular interest or need. Morning (9-12) Academic
curriculum. Afternoon (2-4 or 5) Non-Academic curriculum:
recreation, cultural activities, and some tutoring. (It is too
hot in the afternoon for much concentrated work). Evening
(7-9 or later) Work with voter registration activities, or
special events like a visiting folk singer on evenings when no
political work is needed.
In the few months the Freedom Schools have
been in existence they have brought rich returns. "I think the
Freedom School is inspiring the people to lend a hand in the
fight," reports Ralph Featherstone, 25 year old Director of the
McComb school. "The older people are looking to the young
people, and their courage is rubbing off.
The school makes the kids feel they haven't
been forgotten. It makes them feel that at last something is
coming down to help them. They feel the school is for them."
The most valuable legacy of this summer's schools, he feels has
been the Negro History courses. "The only thing our kids knew
about Negro history is about Booker T. Washington and George
Washington Carver and his peanuts."
At the end of the Mississippi Summer project
the Freedom Schools continued. In several areas they are running
jointly with the regular public school session. They offer
subjects — such as foreign languages — not offered in the
regular schools, and students are attracted to the informal
questioning spirit of the Freedom Schools and academics based on
their experiences as Mississippi Negroes.
The Freedom School program can develop as an
aid in enabling students to make the transition from a
Mississippi Negro high school to higher education. The Free
Southern Theater is touring the Schools with a production of
In White America. 25 performers, including Pete Seeger, the
Chag Mitchell Trio, and the Freedom Singers have toured the
Schools. In these and other ways the Schools provide a center
for educational and cultural activies unavailable before.
Most Schools have their own mimeographed
Newspaper, written, edited, and published by the students
themselves. The average author of an article is between 13 and
15 years of age, and is the first to insist on connecting the
Freedom Schools to the opening of Mississippi's closed society.
A "Declaration of Independence," written by the Freedom School
students of Hattiesburg begins:
"In the course of human events, it has become
necessary for the Negro people to break away from the customs
which have made it very difficult for the Negro to get his
And after detailing the rights they have been
denied by the government of Mississippi, the Declaration ends:
"We, therefore, the Negroes of Mississippi
assembled, appeal to the government of the State, that no man is
free until all men are free. We do hereby declare independence
from the unjust laws of Mississippi which conflict with the
United States Constitution."
Small wonder that a bill was hurriedly
introduced in the State Legislature prohibiting any schools not
licensed by the county superintendent of education, and
forbidding license to any school that "counsels and encourages
disobedience to the laws of the state", a direct attack on the
life of the Freedom School system.
To create a basis for support and to bring closer
together the schools of the North and the South, COFO is
proposing to its Northern supporters that their community,
school or organization "adopt" one of the Mississippi Freedom
Schools. The Freedom Schools need money and supplies. Students
in the north can correspond with Freedom students, exchange tape
recordings or art exhibits, exchange visitors. The gap, so
profound, so complete, between the world of the Freedom student
in Mississippi, and the rest of his nation, can be bridged. One
half of this effort has been begun, in 20 communities in
Mississippi. More must come from outside.
* * *
Mississippi Freedom School
The Basic Set of Questions is:
· Why are we (teachers and students) in Freedom
· What is the Freedom Movement?
· What alternatives does the Freedom Movement offer
The Secondary Set of
· What does the majority culture have that we want?
· What does the majority culture have that we don't
· What do we have that we want to keep?
I: Comparison of Students' Reality with Others
Purpose: To create an awareness that
there are alternatives.
II: North to Freedom? (The Negro in the North)
Purpose: To help the students see
clearly the conditions of the Negro in the North, and see
migration to the North is not a basic solution.
III: Examining the Apparent Reality (The "Better Life"
That Whites Have)
Purpose: To find out what the whites'
"better life" is really like, and what it costs them.
IV: Introducing the Power Structure
To create an awareness that some people profit by
the pain of others or by
To create an awareness that some people make
decisions that profoundly affect
others (i.e., bare power).
To develop the concept of "political
V. The Poor Negro, The Poor White, and Their Fears
To indicate that the "power structure"
derives its power, in the final analysis, by
playing upon the
fears of the people - Negro and white.
To come to an understanding of these fears - what
has helped them to produce them
and what they, in turn, have
produced, namely, the myths, the lies, the system.
To grasp the deeper effects of the system we have
produced and have allowed to
continue, the deep psychological damage to Negroes and whites
VI: Material Things and Soul Things
To develop insights about the inadequacies of pure
To develop some elementary concepts of a new
VII: The Movement
Purpose: To grasp the significance
of direct action and of political action as instruments of
(Excerpted and reprinted with kind permission of
Teacher: 1991, "Mississippi Freedom School Curriculum -
1964," Radical Teacher 40, pp. 6-29.) http://web.greens.org
* * *
Bay Area Friends of SNCC
Bay Area Friends of the Student Non-Violent
January 1965 Berkeley,
Underground Education: The COFO
In a bombed
house I have to teach my school
Because I believe all men should live
by the Golden Rule.
To a bombed house your children must come,
Because of your fear of a bomb,
And because you've let your fear conquer your soul,
In this bombed house these minds I must try to mould.
I must try to teach them to stand tall and be a man,
When you their parents have cowered
down and refused to take a stand.
from a poem by Joyce Brown, 16
Freedom School pupil
* * * *
CORE Members murdered in Mississippi
Freedom Summer was a highly publicized campaign in the
Deep South to register blacks to vote during the summer of 1964.
summer of 1964, thousands of civil rights activists, many of
them white college students from the North, descended on
Mississippi and other Southern states to try to end the
long-time political disenfranchisement of African Americans in
the region. Although black men had won the right to vote in
1870, thanks to the Fifteenth Amendment, for the next 100 years
many were unable to exercise that right.
White local and state
officials systematically kept blacks from voting through formal
methods, such as poll taxes and literacy tests, and through
cruder methods of fear and intimidation, which included beatings
and lynchings. The inability to vote was only one of many
problems blacks encountered in the racist society around them,
but the civil-rights officials who decided to zero in on voter
registration understood its crucial significance as well the
white supremacists did. An African American voting bloc would be
able to effect social and political change.
marked the climax of intensive voter-registration activities in
the South that had started in 1961. Organizers chose to focus
their efforts on Mississippi because of the state's particularly
dismal voting-rights record: in 1962 only 6.7 percent of African
Americans in the state were registered to vote, the lowest
percentage in the country.
The Freedom Summer campaign was
organized by a coalition called the Mississippi Council of
Federated Organizations, which was led by the Congress of Racial
Equality (CORE), and included the National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the Student
Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). By mobilizing
volunteer white college students from the North to join them,
the coalition scored a major public relations coup as hundreds
of reporters came to Mississippi from around the country to
cover the voter-registration campaign.
organization of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) was a major
focus of the summer program. More than 80,000 Mississippians
joined the new party, which elected a slate of sixty-eight
delegates to the national Democratic Party convention in
Atlantic City. The MFDP delegation challenged the seating of the
delegates representing Mississippi's all white Democratic Party.
While the effort failed, it drew national attention,
particularly through the dramatic televised appeal of MFDP
delegate Fannie Lou Hamer. The MFDP challenge also led to a ban
on racially discriminatory delegations at future conventions.
officials also established 30 "Freedom Schools" in
towns throughout Mississippi to address the racial inequalities
in Mississippi's educational system. Mississippi's black schools
were invariably poorly funded, and teachers had to use
hand-me-down textbooks that offered a racist slant on American
Many of the white college students were assigned to
teach in these schools, whose curriculum included black history,
the philosophy of the Civil Rights Movement, and leadership
development in addition to remedial instruction in reading and
arithmetic. The Freedom Schools had hoped to draw at least 1000
students that first summer, and ended up with 3000. The schools
became a model for future social programs like Head Start, as
well as alternative educational institutions.
activists faced threats and harassment throughout the campaign,
not only from white supremacist groups, but from local residents
and police. Freedom School buildings and the volunteers' homes
were frequent targets; 37 black churches and 30 black homes and
businesses were firebombed or burned during that summer, and the
cases often went unsolved.
More than 1000 black and white
volunteers were arrested, and at least 80 were beaten by white
mobs or racist police officers. But the summer's most infamous
act of violence was the murder of three young civil rights
workers, a black volunteer, James
Chaney, and his white coworkers, Andrew
Goodman and Michael
On June 21, Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner set
out to investigate a church bombing near Philadelphia,
Mississippi, but were arrested that afternoon and held for
several hours on alleged traffic violations. Their release from
jail was the last time they were seen alive before their badly
decomposed bodies were discovered under a nearby dam six weeks
later. Goodman and Schwerner had died from single gunshot wounds
to the chest, and Chaney from a savage beating.
made headlines all over the country, and provoked an outpouring
of national support for the Civil Rights Movement. But many
black volunteers realized that because two of the victims were
white, these murders were attracting much more attention than
previous attacks in which the victims had been all black, and
this added to the growing resentment they had already begun to
feel towards the white volunteers.
There was growing dissension
within the ranks over charges of white paternalism and elitism.
Black volunteers complained that the whites seemed to think they
had a natural claim on leadership roles, and that they treated
the rural blacks as though they were ignorant. There was also
increasing hostility from both black and white workers over the
interracial romances that developed the summer.
volunteers of both races were charging both the black and white
men with sexist behavior.
But despite the
internal divisions, Freedom Summer left a positive legacy. The
well-publicized voter registration drives brought national
attention to the subject of black disenfranchisement, and this
eventually led to the 1965
Voting Rights Act, federal legislation that among other
things outlawed the tactics Southern states had used to prevent
blacks from voting.
Freedom Summer also instilled among African
Americans a new consciousness and a new confidence in political
action. As Fannie Lou Hamer later said, "Before the 1964
project there were people that wanted change, but they hadn't
dared to come out. After 1964 people began moving. To me it's
one of the greatest things that ever happened.
* * *
Hamer's speech at the 1964 DNC
Fannie Lou Hamer (born
Fannie Lou Townsend on October 6, 1917 – March 14, 1977) was an
American voting rights activist and
civil rights leader. She was instrumental in organizing
Freedom Summer for the
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and later
became the Vice-Chair of the
Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, attending the
1964 Democratic National Convention in
Atlantic City, New Jersey, in that capacity. Her
plain-spoken manner and fervent belief in the
Biblical righteousness of her cause gained her a reputation
as an electrifying speaker and constant activist of civil
rights. . . .
On August 23, 1962, Rev.
James Bevel, an organizer for the Student Nonviolent
Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and an associate of Dr.
Martin Luther King, Jr., gave a sermon in Ruleville,
Mississippi and followed it with an appeal to those assembled to
register to vote. . . . Hamer was the first volunteer. She
later said, "I guess if I'd had any sense, I'd have been a
little scared—but what was the point of being scared? The only
thing they could do was kill me, and it seemed they'd been
trying to do that a little bit at a time since I could
On August 31, she traveled
on a rented bus with other attendees of Bevel's sermon to
Indianola, Mississippi to register. In what would become a
signature trait of Hamer's activist career, she began singing
Christian hymns, such as "Go
Tell It on the Mountain" and "This
Little Light of Mine," to the group in order to bolster
their resolve. . . . Bob Moses . .. dispatched Charles McLaurin
. . . to find "the lady who sings the hymns". McLaurin found and
recruited Hamer. . . . On June 9, 1963, Hamer was on her way
Charleston, South Carolina with other activists from a
literacy workshop. Stopping in
Winona, Mississippi, the group was arrested on a false
charge and jailed. Once in jail, Hamer and her colleagues were
beaten savagely by the police, almost to the point of death.
Released on June 12, she
needed more than a month to recover. . . Hamer was invited,
along with the rest of the MFDP [Mississippi Freedom Democratic
Party] officers, to address the Convention's Credentials
Committee. She recounted the problems she had encountered in
registration, and the ordeal of the jail in Winona, and, near
tears, concluded: "All of this is on account we want to register
to become first-class citizens, and if the Freedom Democratic
Party is not seated now, I question America. Is this America,
the land of the free and the home of the brave where we have
to sleep with our telephones off the hooks because our lives be
threatened daily because we want to live as decent human
Hubert Humphrey (who was campaigning for the
Vice-Presidential nomination), [along with]
Walter Mondale, and
Walter Reuther, as well as
J. Edgar Hoover . . . suggested a compromise which would
give the MFDP two non-voting seats in exchange for other
concessions, and secured the endorsement of
Martin Luther King, Jr. and the
Southern Christian Leadership Conference for the plan. But
when Humphrey outlined the compromise, saying that his position
on the ticket was at stake, Hamer, invoking her Christian
beliefs, sharply rebuked him:
"Do you mean to tell me
that your position is more important than four hundred thousand
black people's lives? Senator Humphrey, I know lots of people in
Mississippi who have lost their jobs trying to register to vote.
I had to leave the plantation where I worked in
Sunflower County, Mississippi. Now if you lose this job of
Vice-President because you do what is right, because you help
the MFDP, everything will be all right.
God will take care of you. But if you take [the nomination]
this way, why, you will never be able to do any good for civil
rights, for poor people, for peace, or any of those things you
talk about. Senator Humphrey, I'm going to pray to Jesus for
Future negotiations were
conducted without Hamer, and the compromise was modified such
that the Convention would select the two delegates to be seated,
for fear the MFDP would appoint Hamer. In the end, the MFDP
rejected the compromise, but had changed the debate to the point
that the Democratic Party adopted a clause which demanded
equality of representation from their states' delegations in
* * *
* * * *
Greenback Planet: How the Dollar Conquered
the World and Threatened Civilization as We Know It
By H. W. Brands
In Greenback Planet, acclaimed historian H. W. Brands charts the dollar's astonishing rise to become the world's principal currency. Telling the story with the verve of a novelist, he recounts key episodes in U.S. monetary history, from the Civil War debate over fiat money (greenbacks) to the recent worldwide financial crisis. Brands explores the dollar's changing relations to gold and silver and to other currencies and cogently explains how America's economic might made the dollar the fundamental standard of value in world finance. He vividly describes the 1869 Black Friday attempt to corner the gold market, banker J. P. Morgan's bailout of the U.S. treasury, the creation of the Federal Reserve, and President Franklin Roosevelt's handling of the bank panic of 1933. Brands shows how lessons learned (and not learned) in the Great Depression have influenced subsequent U.S. monetary policy, and how the dollar's dominance helped transform economies in countries ranging from Germany and Japan after World War II to Russia and China today. The Economy
* * * * *
The Gardens of Democracy: A New American Story
of Citizenship, the Economy, and the Role of Government
By Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer
American democracy is informed by the 18th century’s most cutting edge thinking on society, economics, and government. We’ve learned some things in the intervening 230 years about self interest, social behaviors, and how the world works. Now, authors Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer argue that some fundamental assumptions about citizenship, society, economics, and government need updating. For many years the dominant metaphor for understanding markets and government has been the machine. Liu and Hanauer view democracy not as a machine, but as a garden. A successful garden functions according to the inexorable tendencies of nature, but it also requires goals, regular tending, and an understanding of connected ecosystems. The latest ideas from science, social science, and economics—the cutting-edge ideas of today—generate these simple but revolutionary ideas: (The economy is not an efficient machine. It’s an effective garden that need tending. Freedom is responsibility. Government should be about the big what and the little how. True self interest is mutual interest.
* * * * *
The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
* * *
Ancient African Nations
* * * * *
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Negro Digest /
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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for
George Jackson /
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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
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5 May 2012