D orange

Guest Blogger: Kevin Vandiver, Charlotte Freedom School Partners


The current Faces of Freedom Summer photo exhibit looks back at the historic 1964 efforts by college students to register African American voters in Mississippi. As part of that project, activists organized Freedom Schools to awaken African American youth to black history and their rights as citizens. Today a new generation of Freedom Schools aims to help young people turn summers into a time of scholarly advancement. Our guest blogger, Kevin Vandiver works as the Development Coordinator for Charlotte Freedom School Partners
This summer marks the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Freedom Summer Project, which was a voting initiative for marginalized African Americans.  In addition to galvanizing the people to register to vote, there were about 30-40 Freedom Schools in ‘64, which were started to provide African Americans with an education that they were not receiving in the public school system. The actions taken to educate the surrounding communities was a method that advocates used to go on the offensive against oppression:  Education was a key to Freedom.   Whether it was in a classroom, church basement, or on someone’s front stoop, class was in session!  Taught by college students and other volunteers, the Freedom School students were taught black history and culture, math, and character-building.   The ages of the attendees ranged from small children to the very elderly—with the average age being about 15 years of age.  In 1964, over 3000 people attended the Freedom Schools in Mississippi.  
When we fast-forward 50 years to 2014, we understand that while there has been great change, that there are still miles to go.  In the day when there are still educational inequities, thousands of children not reading by third grade, and the billion-dollar cradle to prison pipeline, there is a continued need education and empowerment to achieve the potential with which every child is born. 50 years later, we can say that the ball has not been dropped.  The legacy of Freedom Summer of ’64 is very alive today!
We believe that Freedom School Partners works with many partners and community members to put children on a path of success, and there is room for all to continue in this work that began so long ago. 

This new education that Freedom School Partners endeavors to offer through its programming builds the character of scholars and interns alike, rebuilds spirits, brings together communities of hope, support, and fosters inter-generational leadership, helping us all to know that We Can—and Must—Make a Difference!  Our efforts to bring about this new education have empowered 4000 Children and 400 college students since its first Freedom School in Charlotte, in 2004.

I am a part of this work—serving as a Development Coordinator.  I hope to spread the word and garner support for this great movement.  Our work is arduous, but it is good work—and it will change the face of our world.
Freedom School Partners join in solidarity with Ella Baker, who said, “We who believe in Freedom cannot rest until it comes!

How has public education changed in the last 50 years? Leave your opinion below or on our Facebook page. 

Freedom Summer/Freedom Schools, Then and Now reception, exhibit viewing and discussion will feature Charlotte Civil Rights activist J. Charles Jones and retired Charlotte Observer journalist Lew Powell. Join us Wednesday, May 28 at 6 pm. RSVP: Julie Attilus at or 704.371.4922.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter, tag us on Instagram and like us on Facebook. Share with your community and leave a comment below.