The Freedom Schools of the 1960s were part of a long line of efforts to liberate people from oppression using the tool of political and language literacy, including secret schools in the 18th and 19th centuries for enslaved Africans; labor schools during the early 20th century; and the Citizenship Schools formed by Septima Clark in the 1950s.
Freedom Schools were first developed by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) during the 1964 Freedom Summer in Mississippi. They were intended to counter the “sharecropper education” received by so many African Americans and poor whites. Through reading, writing, arithmetic, history, and civics, participants received a progressive curriculum during a six-week summer program that was designed to prepare disenfranchised African Americans to become active political actors on their own behalf (as voters, elected officials, organizers, etc.). Nearly 40 freedom schools were established serving close to 2500 students, including parents and grandparents.