School Desegregation

What is the origin and purpose of freedom schools?

The landmark case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas (1954) caused some public school systems to close their doors in reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling to desegregate public schools. This occurred in Prince Edward County, Virginia, and elsewhere. This reaction, in turn, caused civil rights leaders to develop freedom schools to educate young African Americans and teach them leadership and political participation. The quintessential model freedom school was developed in 1964, during Freedom Summer in Mississippi—an effort that led to voter registration drives. The Mississippi Freedom Schools offered academic courses as well and the subjects varied according to school location. They were established with the commitment of local communities and were offered in nontraditional locations, such as parks, kitchens, and private homes. Attendance fluctuated, ranging from fifteen in the first week to eight in the second. Later, as many as thirty-five students attended a particular school. Most freedom schools have since closed.


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