St. Mark's Social Center
A photo of the outside of St. Mark's Social Center on the first day of Freedom School.
Community activists organizing the distribution of students before the first day of Freedom School at St. Mark's Social Center.
Students and their parents signing up for classes at St. Mark's Social Center.
Backstory and Context
During the 1960s across America, it was apparent amongst the Black community that the current education system withheld teaching the history of Black people in America which in turn perpetuated ignorance amongst both the white and Black communities. The education system was especially detrimental for Black students; the curriculum did not consider the cultural differences between Black and white students and was in no way progressive due to financial disparities and an overall lack of concern for educating minority students. These flaws in the system were addressed by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1963. The SNCC saw how this form of education limited the academic potential of Black students and proposed the creation of a new type of curriculum that would expose Black students to a variety of academic subjects and Black history. This curriculum was brought to life through Freedom Schools. The first Freedom School was implemented in Mississippi in 1964 and quickly expanded to a number of different cities in America, including Boston.
St. Mark's Social Center used their space and resources to implement a Freedom School in Boston. The founder, Noel Day, was a passionate community activist and was responsible for developing the curriculum for Boston’s Freedom Schools. Day’s curriculum focused on the history and experiences of Black Americans and encouraged critical thinking amongst students. The teachers of this school were trained community volunteers who encouraged active participation from their students; a challenge that Black students have never been exposed to. It was imperative for these teachers to believe in the intellectual potential of these students in order to instill a sense of confidence within them. It was believed that when Black students have more confidence in their knowledge and opinions, they become more outspoken and would be more likely to contribute to the Civil Rights movement. The overall goal of these Freedom Schools was to prepare Black students to enact social change while also providing a more progressive approach to education that was not available in traditional public schools.
Community centers like St.Mark's Social Center played a large role in minority communities. They are able to provide a more personalized form of outreach to a specific community and act as a safe space for minorities. It is for this reason Boston Freedom Schools were successful. Students felt comfortable expressing their opinions knowing that their peers shared similar beliefs and community volunteer teachers were able to relate the curriculum to the lives of each student making their education more effective. Community centers greatly influence the development of each individual in a community.
"Mississippi Freedom Schools." Encyclopedia of Education. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 24, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/mississippi-freedom-schools
Perlstein, Daniel. "Teaching Freedom: SNCC and the Creation of the Mississippi Freedom Schools." History of Education Quarterly 30, no. 3 (1990): 297. doi:10.2307/368691.