This Day in History

Aug. 8, 1964: Freedom Schools Convention

Time Periods: People’s Movement: 1961 - 1974
Themes: African American, Civil Rights Movements, Democracy & Citizenship

A. Philip Randolph at the Freedom School Convention. Source: Wisconsin Historical Society.

On Aug. 8, 1964, the Freedom Schools Convention was held in Meridian, Mississippi with students from all over the state. The day after the funeral for James Chaney, this student convention was held to coincide with the state convention of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. Adults in attendance were Robert Parris Moses, James Forman, the Free Southern Theater, A. Philip Randolph, and more.

“The young people took over. They became the administrators,” recalled Staughton Lynd, a Spelman College history professor who was coordinator of the freedom school program. Participants drafted their own political platform for the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP). The platform covered everything from segregated public accommodations and housing to the educational and economic opportunities for young Black people. At the end of the convention, the delegation laid down the foundation for the Mississippi Student Union (MSU) to continue coordinated action against segregated schools and public accommodations. [Description from SNCC Digital Gateway entry on Freedom Schools.] Learn more in the article The Freedom Schools: Concept and Organization by Staughton Lynd, which includes a part of the political platform the students developed.

Exploring the History of Freedom Schools is a free downloadable lesson using primary documents for middle and high school from Teaching for Change.

A group of young people at the Freedom School Convention. Source: Wisconsin Historical Society.

Two women at the Freedom School Convention.  Source: Wisconsin Historical Society.