This Freedom School Resurgence Is Following A Powerful Legacy

Exterior of the St. Petersburg Florida Woodson African American History Museum
Zain Murdock
September 29, 2023

During Mississippi’s 1964 Freedom Summer, Freedom Schools were developed to educate Black students in reading, writing, civics, and more. The goal was to offer the skills they needed to navigate the world and prepare them to become politically engaged.

Even after the state tried outlawing Freedom Schools and vigilantes burned crosses, they persisted. Now, Black Floridians are repeating history.

St. Petersburg’s chapter of The Association of African American Life and History recently graduated their first class of Freedom School. After a wave of anti-Black education initiatives and a new curriculum claiming enslaved Africans benefited from slavery, they plan to expand locations and offer education beyond the summer.

Even beyond 1964’s history, this was inevitable. Our enslaved ancestors resisted the system by educating each other before Freedom Schools had a name. The Black Panthers’ liberation schools achieved a similar purpose.

Behind bars, from efforts like Freedom Libraries and workshops to jailhouse lawyers passing along legal knowledge, formerly and currently incarcerated Black activists are a critical part of our history, too.

Florida won’t be alone. Today’s censorship efforts and attacks on Black education in schools, prisons, and libraries will only push our communities to educate each other more. 

From building physical Freedom Schools to continuing to have conversations about liberation and Black history, the power is in our hands.

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