Claiming Citizenship: Freedom Schools

Slavery, segregation, and racism denied African Americans access to full citizenship. They were (and are) set apart. Refusing to accept this injustice, African Americans created their own schools that later became known as Freedom Schools.

Black educators taught girls Black history, literature, and the arts, as well as other subjects.

Girls took pride in their culture and felt valued.

1859

This illustration is of an African American school in Gay Head, Massachusetts. Both in the North and South, African American educators established their own schools as early as 1794. Often these schools operated in secret.

School, Gay Head, Massachusetts, 1859

School, Gay Head, Massachusetts, 1859

Courtesy of West Virginia and Regional History Center WVU Libraries

1905

Mary McLeod Bethune, like other teachers, used her education to teach girls how to respect themselves and African American culture.

Mary McLeod Bethune at the Daytona Literary and Industrial School for Training Negro Girls, 1905

Mary McLeod Bethune at the Daytona Literary and Industrial School for Training Negro Girls, 1905

Courtesy of State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory

1964

The first officially titled Freedom Schools opened in Mississippi during the civil rights movement. The Black Panthers extended freedom schools across the nation.

Photo by Ken Thompson, is part of the Ken Thompson Photo Collection, all rights owned by the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church, Inc. © Used with Permission of Global Ministries

2014

Girls continue to attend Freedom Schools around the country run by the Children's Defense Fund.

A Children's Defense Fund Freedom School © site in Houston, Texas, 2014

A Children's Defense Fund Freedom School © site in Houston, Texas, 2014