Freedom Schools Open Doors

Freedom Schools in cities across the country offer a unique summer enrichment opportunity. The children’s defense fund modeled the no-cost six-week, literacy and cultural enrichment program after freedom schools of the civil rights era. Freedom Schools in Nashville, Tennessee, operate in multiple locations thanks to partnerships with United Methodist Churches. Meet some of the participants and mentors who make Freedom Schools happen.

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Freedom Schools in more than 100 U.S. cities teach literacy, self-empowerment and civic engagement. Books, field trips, and guest speakers celebrate the cultures and contributions of people of color.

George Gutierrez “Having these books and these topics to talk about, about things like civil rights movement and just the history of African-Americans. And not just the history that we always hear about like civil rights movement and slavery. I’m talking about the history that talks about them being kings and queens and the Jackie Robinsons and being the first person to make peanut butter like George Washington Carver.”

Isaiah Bailey: “Hi. I’m Isaiah Bailey. I’m 16-years-old. I read about John Lewis. His book March tells the story from when he was a kid and how became and activist until he became a representative. And my other favorite person is Rip Patton he’s a freedom rider and I got to meet him. He was one of the original freedom riders!”

The program trains and deploys college and university students of color to be teachers and mentors for our scholars, and the interns themselves are transformed, many of them changing their majors to pursue careers in education, social work, law and urban planning.

George Gutierrez, Freedom School Staff Mentor: “I had no experience teaching. I had a student run out of the classroom. I’ll never forget KJ. He runs out of the classroom the moment we pull out a book, ‘I thought this was summer!’ He just did not like reading. He did not like learning. He made such a dramatic change. This young child loved to read. He loved to learn. And he was coming to Freedom School with books, leaving with books. And on his last day, he was crying because he didn’t want Freedom School to be over.”

Keisha Williams: “What can you do? You can volunteer your time. You can donate money. You can reach out to Freedom Schools to be a reader. Whatever time and money you have to give will be a great investment.

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For more information on how you can donate money or volunteer, visit nashvillefreedomschools.org.

This video was produced by United Methodist Communications in Nashville, TN. Contact is Joe Iovino.

This video was first posted on March 1, 2021.