Centering Youth2023-02-24T13:25:54-05:00
Centering Youth Agency in the Civil Rights Movement

Centering Youth Agency in the Civil Rights Movement


Join the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) Freedom SchoolsⓇ program and Florida A&M University (FAMU) for a two-week summer institute for educators: Centering Youth Agency in the Civil Rights Movement. This professional development program will serve 25 K–12 teachers of all subject areas and expose participants to new approaches to civil rights history that center the agency of young people. This program is based on innovative scholarship and the culturally relevant pedagogical traditions of Freedom Schools past and present.

The first week, June 26–30, 2023, will be held at the historic Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee. Haley Farm is the former home of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alex Haley (Roots, Autobiography of Malcolm X) and the current retreat center of Children’s Defense Fund. The second week, July 10–14, 2023, will take place virtually and draw from the resources of the CDF Freedom Schools program and FAMU’s Black Archives Research Center and Museum, a collection dedicated to African American history housed at one of the nation’s leading Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU)s. Educators in the program will engage with preeminent scholars, archivists, civil rights movement veterans, exemplary K–12 educators, current student activists, and CDF Freedom Schools program staff.

The institute will begin with an opportunity to reframe standard narratives about the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision by turning the spotlight away from Washington to focus on the “Clinton Twelve,” the group of young African American students who integrated Clinton High School in the years following the Brown decision. Educators will then turn their attention to the 1964 Freedom Summer Project, focusing on the Freedom Schools that served as an innovative grassroots education program across the state of Mississippi. Teachers will analyze how the Freedom Schools functioned as an alternative to the segregated public school system by providing students with an innovative Black History and citizenship curriculum otherwise unavailable.

The institute’s aim is to give educators the knowledge and tools they need to teach a richer, more representative version of civil rights history that also activates students’ power to become engaged citizens and positive change agents in their communities.

Discover the Program

About the Hosts

Children's Defense Fund - Leave No Child Behind

Children’s Defense Fund: Founded by civil rights leader Marian Wright Edelman, Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) is a nonprofit child advocacy organization that has worked for almost 50 years to ensure a level playing field for all children and youth. CDF champions policies and programs that lift children out of poverty, protect them from abuse and neglect, and ensure their access to health care, quality education and a moral and spiritual foundation.

CDF Freedom SchoolsⓇ: The CDF Freedom Schools program provides summer and after-school enrichment through a research-based multicultural literacy program that supports K–12 scholars and their families through five essential components: high quality academic and character-building enrichment; parent and family involvement; civic engagement and social action; intergenerational servant leadership development; and nutrition, health, and mental health. The CDF Freedom Schools program currently serves more than 12,000 children and youth at 152 sites in 25 states and Washington, D.C.


Florida A&M University (FAMU): Founded in 1887, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) is a public, historically Black university in Tallahassee, Florida. FAMU is part of the State University System of Florida and is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, serving nearly 10,000 students from across the United States and more than 70 countries. The 2022 U.S. News & World Report ranked FAMU as the #1 public HBCU in the country.

Meet the Team

Meet the Team
Meet the Team

The National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy demands wisdom.

National Endowment for the Humanities

The K–12 Institute “Centering Youth Agency in the Civil Rights Movement has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy demands wisdom.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.