Origins and Evolution of the CDF Freedom Schools® Program and Movement

CDF Freedom Schools® program has its origins in the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project of 1964, which brought college students from around the country to Mississippi to secure justice and voting rights for Black citizens. These early Freedom Schools aimed at keeping Black children and youth safe and giving them rich educational experiences that were not offered in Mississippi’s public schools. In a variety of makeshift settings, college student volunteers provided instruction in reading, writing, humanities, mathematics, and science along with subjects not taught in Mississippi public schools, such as Black history and constitutional rights. All of their instruction was tailored to encourage children and youth to become independent thinkers, problem solvers, and agents of change in their own communities.

CDF opened the first two CDF Freedom Schools sites in 1995 to address the needs of children who lacked access to high-quality literacy programs during the summer. The CDF Freedom Schools program today is designed to improve reading, language skills, and interpersonal relationships; strengthen families; connect children to medical and other needed social services; and develop in all participants the skills needed to improve conditions for children and families in their communities.