Freedom Schools

Freedom Schools are best understood in the context of the long struggle for freedom, voting rights, and quality education that began during slavery utilizing alternative education methodologies.

  • The Hannah Freedom School is a full day six-week summer literacy enrichment program for low income children of color in grades 2-8. Begun in conjunction with Cornerstone Community Church, the program currently operates out of Bayside MLK Academy in Marin City, but is open to children from throughout Marin. Because of its proven effectiveness in increasing reading proficiency and motivating children to become excited about learning, Hannah is exploring ways that the Freedom School model might be incorporated into schools year round.

"We want our children to appreciate fully the artistic, moral and spiritual values that will bring to them much of their heritage of the past and make it possible to pass them on to their successors. [We want to help our children develop] an understanding and appreciation for family, for their own rich heritage derived from their African forebears as well as their American experience, the kind of understanding that will simultaneously provide them with roots and wings."

Dr. John Hope Franklin, Historian, Author

History of Freedom Schools

  • 1964

    Developed by the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee(SNCC) Freedom Schools were a part of the "Mississippi Freedom Summer Project" of 1964, designed to give Black children a richer educational experience than the "sharecropper education" that Mississippi public schools offered. College volunteers from the north not only taught a broad ranging humanities curriculum emphasizing English, foreign languages, art, and creative writing and a general mathematics and science curriculum. they taught subjects the public schools did not, including Black History, constitutional rights, and movement building - encouraging students to be independent thinkers, problem solvers, elected officials and agents of social change in their own communities.

  • 1992

    The Freedom Schools movement was reborn in 1992 under the leadership of Marian Wright Edelman and the Children's Defense Fund's Black Community Crusade for Children® (BCCC®) program. Utilizing the name Children's Defense Fund (CDF) Freedom Schools® program, the work continues in partnership with community leaders around the country committed to building strong, literate, and empowered children prepared to make a difference in themselves, their families, communities, nation, and world

  • 2010

    In 2010, the Hannah Project became the first Children's Defense Fund (CDF) Freedom Schools® program in the county with the urging ( and support) of a host of colleagues: Ethel Seiderman, Marsha Bonner, Wendy Cliff, and Sharon Turner. Beginning with 42 children in the summer of 2010, the program now regularly serves well over 100 children each summer in grades 1-8. Hannah Freedom School has become much more than a summer program. It serves as a model for culturally informed teaching strategies and a pipeline for young people of color to enter education related careers.

  • 2016

    In the Spring of 2016, we had concluded that there would be no Freedom School that year. Our foundation funding had dried up. We had very few donors. And our small board could not seem to muster the bandwidth to raise the $75,000 needed to operate the program in just four months. We were resigned. But in the middle of May, Madeleine Ballard, who had only just learned about Freedom Schools, stepped in - only days before Freedom School would need to begin, and made a challenge grant that was matched in a week. In two weeks, we had staff, books, curriculum, etc. Freedom School was back. Madeleine not only saved Freedom School, but has stayed on - continuing to help Freedom School develop multi-year funding commitments.

What makes freedom school so effective?  

High Quality Academic Enrichment

Because Freedom Schools believe that reading is the key to unlocking a child's potential , reading and language arts are at the heart of the Freedom School experience. Using an integrated reading curriculum, Freedom Schools devote  the entire morning to exploring award winning culturally rich literature to help children fall in love with reading and stave off summer reading loss.

Intergenerational Mentorship

Hannah Freedom School scholars are taught by college-age interns. Referred to as Servant Leader Interns,. SLIs come together in Tennessee with 2,500 other youth leaders from around the country to attend the Ella Baker Child Policy Institute where they develop teaching skills and awareness of issues surrounding their local community. SLIs act as learning facilitators and mentors to children who are anxious to interact with instructors that look like them.

Emphasis on Culture, History, and Social Justice

Culture, history, and social justice are emphasized in the books and literature used in the Integrated Reading Curriculum (IRC). Activities and field trips are used to reinforce lessons introduced during IRC. Hannah Freedom School wants students to see themselves in the reading material and know that they too can make a difference.

Parents as Learning Partners

Freedom Schools recognize parents as important partners in educating their children. Parents are expected to participate in school activities and attend weekly workshops to learn more about successful parenting, setting and achieving family goals, and becoming advocates for their children's education.

Small Class Size

All Freedom Schools are required to maintain a 1:10 teacher pupil ratio. We believe the small class size, a research- based curriculum, and a culturally responsive approach, all contribute to helping children improve reading fluency and comprehension.

It's Fun!

From the high energy morning assembly known as Harambee that is replete with singing, cheers, chants, and affirmations, to the afternoon activities that include art, music, STEM, sports, performance arts, and more, Freedom Schools make learning an exciting and fun experience.

The Impact

  • 0%

Children who maintained or gained instructional reading levels and did not experience learning loss.

  • 0%

Children who Increased instructional reading level by six months or more.

  • 0%

SLIs who enter education related careers after working at Hannah Freedom School.

Experience Freedom School

The Freedom School Administrators
Freedom School Administrators
Servant Leader Interns

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