History of CDF Freedom Schools

CDF Freedom Schools® History

Excerpt from Children's Defense Fund website - www.freedomschools.org

The CDF Freedom Schools program is proudly rooted in the American Civil Rights Movement and the courageous efforts of college age youth to make a difference.

Freedom Summer of 1964


The "Mississippi Freedom Summer Project" of 1964 was organized by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), two leading Civil Rights organizations.
SNCC, a political organization formed in 1960 by Black college students in the United States was dedicated to overturning segregation in the South. The COFO was an umbrella organization that coordinated activities of various leading groups such as Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).  These two major projects continued the struggle in Mississippi and called for "Freedom Summer."
The Freedom Summer Project was a major political action program designed to engage Black students and community volunteers in a variety of strategic activities to ensure basic citizenship rights for all Mississippians.

The Freedom Summer Project of 1964 activities included:

These Freedom Schools provided reading instruction; a humanities curriculum emphasizing English, foreign languages, art, and creative writing; and a general mathematics and science curriculum. These schools were structured to motivate young people to become critically engaged in their communities and to help them identify and design authentic solutions to local problems.


Freedom Schools Reborn in 1992: the CDF Freedom Schools Program Model


The Freedom Schools movement was reborn in 1992 under the leadership of Marian Wright Edelman and the Children's Defense Fund's Black Community Crusade for Children® (BCCC®) program to advance this transforming vision of education for all children through the CDF Freedom Schools program.
In the words of Dr. John Hope Franklin, honorary co-chair of the BCCC program, we want our children "to appreciate fully the artistic, moral and spiritual values that will bring to them much of their heritage of the past and make it possible to pass them on to their successors. [We want to help our children develop] an understanding and appreciation for family, for their own rich heritage derived from their African forebears as well as their American experience, the kind of understanding that will simultaneously provide them with roots and wings."
With an increased focus on literacy, parent involvement, conflict resolution, and social action, the CDF Freedom Schools program utilizes an award-winning integrated reading curriculum and develops engaging lesson plans and hands-on activities to accompany it.
The CDF Freedom Schools model engages students in their local community and the larger national and world context. We expect our teachers, parents, children and staff to set high expectations for themselves and welcome the challenges of personal growth and transformation.
Much like the summer of 1964, trainings for college students at Shaw University and Miami of Ohio, each June, college age servant leader interns from all CDF Freedom Schools program sites participate in the Ella Baker Child Policy Training Institute, a national training workshop, at the historic CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, TN and University of Tennessee at Knoxville to develop their teaching skills and awareness of issues surrounding their community.