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The Freedom School project was proposed in late 1963 by Charles Cobb . . .

The purpose, he said . . . to challenge the myths of our society, to perceive more clearly

 its realities, and to find alternatives — ultimately new directions for action.



 Mississippi Freedom Summer 1965 & Its 30 Schools



Thirty Freedom Schools in Mississippi

CORE, SNCC and NAACP 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 Head Start.

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 other. 

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: Early Morning (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 God-given rights".

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.

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Mississippi Freedom School Curriculum, 1964

 The Basic Set of Questions is:

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

·  What is the Freedom Movement?

·  What alternatives does the Freedom Movement offer us?

 The Secondary Set of Question is:

·  What does the majority culture have that we want?

·  What does the majority culture have that we don't want?

·  What do we have that we want to keep?

Unit I: Comparison of Students' Reality with Others

     Purpose: To create an awareness that there are alternatives.

Unit 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

                     that migration to the North is not a basic solution.

Unit 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.

Unit IV: Introducing the Power Structure

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

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

                      To develop the concept of "political power."


Unit V. The Poor Negro, The Poor White, and Their Fears

     Purpose: 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

Unit VI: Material Things and Soul Things

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

                      To develop some elementary concepts of a new society.  

Unit VII: The Movement

     Purpose: To grasp the significance of direct action and of political action as instruments of social change.


(Excerpted and reprinted with kind permission of Radical Teacher: 1991, "Mississippi Freedom School Curriculum - 1964," Radical Teacher 40, pp. 6-29.)

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January 1965

Bay Area Friends of SNCC Newsletter

Bay Area Friends of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee

January 1965    Berkeley, California

 Underground Education: The COFO Freedom School

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
McComb, Mississippi

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Freedom Summer


Three 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.


During the 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.


Freedom Summer 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.


The 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.


Freedom Summer 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 history. 


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.


Freedom Summer 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 Schwerner


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.


The murders 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. 


Meanwhile, women 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.

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Fannie Lou 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 Mississippi 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 remember."

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 back from 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 beings—in America?"

Senator 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 you."

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 1968.—Wikipedia

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



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#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
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#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
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#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

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#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

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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

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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.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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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 Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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