The original Freedom Schools arose in 1964 in Mississippi as part of the Civil Rights Movement to address the needs of students left out of the segregated education system. The Freedom Schools offered a new model of education  “that begins on the level of the students’ everyday lives… and builds up to a more realistic perception of American society; themselves, the condition of their oppression, and the alternatives offered by the Freedom Movement.”

Today, people in Utica and the greater Mohawk Valley face many of the same issues that existed in the 1960s – inadequate housing, food insecurity, mass incarceration and a growing prison system, economic inequality, job loss and mass unemployment, institutional racism and inadequate education. The local school system is the victim of mass layoffs and chronic under funding, making Utica schools some of the poorest in the state.

The Mohawk Valley Freedom School launched as a program last year. We are currently setting up our very first summer school. The school is dedicated to the quest for personal power manifested through collective effort. A curriculum rooted in concepts of social and economic justice that is culturally and community relevant will be offered. Students will enjoy a hands-on approach to learning that will cover topics of history, social movements, social justice, reading and writing. We will all learn and grow together to re-affirm our commitment to each other, our shared heritage and our local community.

The Mohawk Valley Freedom School is working closely with and learning from the Paul Robeson Freedom School in Brooklyn and Occupy Freedom School in Chicago’s South Side. These schools, along with several others, are part of a new generation of Freedom Schools that trace their legacy back to the original schools of the 1960s.

Core principles:

1. Provide an education that focuses on social justice and community needs.

2. Maintain an environment that fosters principles of popular education, specifically dialogue that encourages critical thought and self-reflection with a focus on personal experience.

3. “Each one, teach one” – the idea that this is a collective, community oriented education. We all have something to learn from each other and something to teach each other.

4. Teach by asking questions, not by giving answers.

5. Create an education that is both relevant to the needs of students and is rooted in the community.

6. Hold onto the belief that another world is possible and another Mohawk Valley is necessary.

Attend a Class

Although the Mohawk Valley Freedom School is committed to the education of youths, education is a lifelong process and therefore all ages are welcome. Since this project is in its initial phase, we are working alongside other community education initiatives and a multitude of community organizations. As classes and other opportunities for alternative education become available, we will notify the public.

Get Involved

This is a community-led school so this is where you come in. We are looking for volunteer educators, chaperones and others. Ultimately, the Mohawk Valley Freedom School is whatever you want it to be.

If you would like more information, feel free to email us at or call us at (315) 732-2382.


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