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Learn who we are, about Freedom Schools, and why they're so important.

What Is Nashville Freedom Schools Partnership?

The Nashville Freedom School Partnership unites community partners and young-adult mentors to teach literacy and life skills that instill cultural pride, self-assurance, and active citizenship among marginalized children and youth of color to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline.

The Nashville Freedom School Partnership© is the local affiliate of the award-winning, national CDF Freedom Schools©, created in 1995 by the Children’s Defense Fund© in Washington, D.C.

Nashville Freedom Schools© bring together local community groups, college and university students and faculty, faith-based organizations, public schools, corporate private donors, and concerned parents and educators to create and sustain summer reading and enrichment programs from low-income, at-risk children, and teens in grades K-8.

Nashville Freedom Schools organized in summer 2014, beginning with 97 children in a pilot project. Since then, more than 400 children and teens, and more than 75 interns have discovered their capacity for leadership, activism, and academic excellence.

What Are CDF Freedom Schools?

CDF Freedom Schools© are six-week summer programs designed to increase literacy, self-esteem, socio-emotional skills, and a love of learning for children in grades K-8. We disrupt the summer learning slide by keeping scholars engaged and stimulated.

While enrollment is open to all children, our target audience is low-income, public school children who otherwise may not have access to books and educational enhancement programs during the summer, particularly African-American and Latino children from at-risk communities.

CDF Freedom Schools© help children discover their potential and greatness. We utilize book and curriculum that celebrate the cultures and contributions of people of color. We also employ young-adult teachers and mentors who serve as role models and mentors.

Since the program started in 1995, the program has spread to impact more than 13,000 children each year, in more than 107 U.S. cities across 28 states. More than 138,000 children and their families have participated.

CDF Freedom Schools© emphasize literacy because research has demonstrated a correlation between low reading schools and the likelihood of children of color ending up in the criminal justice system.

The national theme of CDF Freedom Schools© is “I Can Make A Difference.” Our mission is to motivate scholars to discover their greatness, improve their reading and critical-thinking skills, celebrate their cultures, and discover their power to change their world for the better.

A Brief History

The model for CDF Freedom Schools© was the late Ella Baker who, in 1957, with a group of Southern Black clergy helped form the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SLCC) to coordinate racial reform efforts across the South. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. served as SCLC’s first president, with Baker as its director.

After leaving SCLC in 1960, Baker helped college activists organize the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). This Committee, which included Black and White college students from across the nation, became one of the foremost Civil Rights organizations in history, by embracing the teachings of Indian Mohandas Gandhi of nonviolent protests and demonstrations, to push for racial desegregation in the south.

The 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer Project provided a reading and humanities curriculum of English, other languages, art, creative writing, math and science to motivate young people to become critically engaged in their communities. These interracial teams of students traveled throughout the U.S. South engaging Black Americans in education and empowerment.

Baker continued to be a respected and influential leader in the fight for human and civil rights until her death in 1986.

Freedom Schools was reborn in 1993 by Marian Wright Edelman and the Children’s Defense Fund© Black Community Crusade for Children initiative.

Today’s CDF Freedom Schools© model draws on the vision, philosophy, and experience of those who conducted Freedom Schools as part of the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer Project.

Help us empower, educate, and inspire teens and children

Your contribution will help keep Nashville Freedom School Partnership© alive and thriving, and ensure we can continue to provide essential summer programming for Nashville's next generation!

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