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

Prof. Jon N. Hale
College of Charleston

Created in 1964 as part of the Mississippi Freedom Summer, the Mississippi Freedom Schools were launched by educators and activists to provide an alternative education for African American students that would facilitate student activism and participatory democracy. The schools, as Jon N. Hale demonstrates in his book, The Freedom Schools: Student Activists in the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement (Columbia University Press, 2016), had a crucial role in the civil rights movement and a major impact on the development of progressive education throughout the nation.

Designed and run by African American and white educators and activists, the Freedom Schools counteracted segregationist policies that inhibited opportunities for black youth. In providing high-quality, progressive education that addressed issues of social justice, the schools prepared African American students to fight for freedom on all fronts. Forming a political network, the Freedom Schools taught students how, when, and where to engage politically, shaping activists who trained others to challenge inequality.

Prof. Hale, of the College of Charleston, has based his book on dozens of first-time interviews with former Freedom School students and teachers and on rich archival materials. The remarkable social history of the Mississippi Freedom Schools is told from the perspective of those frequently left out of civil rights narratives that focus on national leadership or college protestors.  He talks with Dr. Edgar about the history if the Freedom Schools and their modern legacy. They are joined in the conversation by Barbara Kelley-Duncan, CEO of the Carolina Youth Development Center and a board member for The Children's Defense Fund.

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Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar receivedhisA.B.degreefromDavidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.