We can educate ourselves!
Florida has been in shambles since the state’s Board of Education released a new African American history curriculum for students in grades K-12 revising slavery as something that benefitted Black people, Bay News 9 reports. The curriculum is the latest in efforts from local Republican leaders like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to undo the little bit of progress this nation has seen by attacking education in the most violent of ways. Instead of crying in the dark, many have decided to fight back, St. Petersburg, Florida’s Association of African American Life and History announcing the launch of Freedom Schools.
The concept of Freedom Schools dates back to the Civil Rights Movement, its name a nod to Mississippi’s Freedom Summer. Then, The Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) which included The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, The NAACP, Congress of Racial Equity (CORE) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) all banded together to educate masses about voting rights, racial terror and what they can do to get involved politically. During the summer of 1964, Mississippi tried to ban the opening of Freedom Schools, crosses burnt as a warning in 64 of the state’s 82 counties on a single night. Still leaders pressed on, opening the schools anyway.
Jacqueline Hubbard, a member of the Association of African American Life and History St. Pete chapter said her remembrance of the importance of freedom schools back in the day is what prompted her to spearhead it amid Florida’s ongoing educational crisis.
“I was really active in the student nonviolent coordinating committee when I was in college. And I remember I was part of the freedom summer. I remember the freedom summer. I remember the Freedom Schools. And I wrote an article for the Weekly Challenger saying, ‘Don’t you think it’s time we revisit the Freedom Schools? Don’t our kids need to be taught their own history?’ Who can better teach it then those of us who are of the same group…The curriculum is an abomination. It makes me very angry when I read what they want to teach children,” said Hubbard.
The association first got the idea to launch a Freedom School in 2014 but it didn’t materialize until the recent urgency in Florida. Now the Freedom School has graduated its first class, with 23 current students enrolled. One student, 16-year-old Abyssinia, said her Dad explained to her what the school was and now that she’s finished, she feels even better going into her junior year with her newfound knowledge.
“Kids are missing out on a lot, I would say. You can learn African American history in school. But by coming to Freedom School you just learn so much more…When I think about Black history, I’ve always thought of it as a negative thing because of what we’ve learned in schools all of these years. And so, by coming to Freedom Schools, we get to learn so much more about Black history and not just the bad parts,” explained Abyssinia.
The school is open to children of all races and ethnicities. 13-year-old Dean Rum enrolled into the school with his older brother. Now he feels like he’s walking away with so much more information and understanding than his peers.
“I kind of like it because schools don’t usually teach this stuff, so it helps…I’m white. So, if you can learn about history of other people and not just American history that’s a good thing,” said Rum.
The Freedom School is currently located at The Woodson Museum in St. Petersburg. Outside are a painted mural that reads “Black History Matters,” a perfect signal to the transformative work happening inside. Hubbard is working with the association to offer Freedom Schools year round, the organization already expanding to various chapters across the state. Currently, the Sarasota-Manatee County chapter also runs a Freedom School and there are plans for so many more.
To learn more about the Florida Freedom Schools and enroll your child for next year’s session, click here.
Cover photo: Freedom Schools open in Florida to teach supplemental Black history/Photo Courtesy of Association of African American Life and History Saint Petersburg