Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

The Freedom Schools: Student Activists in the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

The Freedom Schools: Student Activists in the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement

Article excerpt

The Freedom Schools: Student Activists in the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement. By Jon N. Hale. (New York: Columbia University Press, 2016. Pp. xvi, 300. $60.00, ISBN 978-0-231-17568-5.)

In The Freedom Schools: Student Activists in the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement, Jon N. Hale deftly argues that many civil rights advances "were not won in the halls of Congress on Capitol Hill but in the rooms of grassroots schools across Mississippi" (p. 71). Hale examines the development, implementation, and legacy of the Mississippi Freedom Schools from 1964 through the 1970s. The book explores seven Freedom School locations that served as viable, independent alternatives to the state's segregated public schools. Using Freedom Schools as a key vehicle for analysis, Hale identifies African American primary and secondary school students as crucial activists on the front lines for educational liberation.

This book adds to the growing body of long civil rights movement scholarship. Hale uses organizational records, volunteers' memoirs, oral interviews, and a wealth of secondary sources to assert that Freedom School students learned participatory democracy from the everyday functions of their curriculum. The author's richly detailed account of the day-to-day work of Mississippi Freedom Schools demonstrates that black students studied and engaged in direct-action protest tactics, acted in plays dramatizing the stories of slain activists, canvassed for votes in their local communities, and advocated for the same academic curriculum that white students had in public schools. Remarkably, Hale traces the experiences of some of the volunteer teachers as well as a handful of students after the demise of the Freedom Schools. Many of the participants remained deeply committed to civil rights causes and activism.

The author's examinations of the Freedom School curriculum and innovative pedagogy in chapters 4 and 5 are the most exciting aspects of this study. Hale illustrates the challenges posed by racial and gendered stereotypes. Organizers perceived Freedom Schools as a safer space for incoming white female volunteers. Many of the white volunteers brought their racial prejudices to bear by assuming the "inferiority of black education," often leading to an initial dismissal of students' academic abilities (p. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.