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A Different Type of Summer Camp: SNCC, Freedom Summer, Freedom Schools, and the Development of African American Males in Mississippi

Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 88, No. 4

Leslie Etienne


The civil rights movement of the late 1950s and 1960s had a transformational effect on American society and on grassroots movements for social justice at home and abroad during that era and beyond. But much of the history of the push for racial equality in America is often told as if it is on a constant repetitive loop, when other accounts are given less attention. One less talked about story is the innovative way that the youthful Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) carried out major campaigns in the south, and particularly Mississippi, when other groups were hesitant to do so. During and long before the movement, Mississippi was a stronghold of racial prejudice and violence against African Americans. Despite the dangers associated with engaging in civil rights work in Mississippi, the SNCC workers, many of them only college students, planned a massive campaign to confront the system of injustice in the state during the summer of 1964. This undertaking came to be known as the “Freedom Summer.” Significantly, the organization established summer “Freedom Schools” as a compliment to the summer project that would address the severe lack of attention school-aged Black children received as a result of Mississippi's intentional neglect. It is within this story that we find a compelling case for the need to identify alternative means of providing academic support for marginalized youth.


Dr. Leslie Etienne, Ph.D., has lived and worked in the Atlanta Metro area since 1999. During college, he began working with youth as a volunteer and upon graduation; he worked as a site coordinator for the Children's Defense Fund Freedom Schools in the summer 1996. In spring 1997 he went on to serve as an Urban Youth Development Peace Corps Volunteer in Guyana, South America, and upon his return home he became a Peace Corps recruiter in the Atlanta Regional Office. He most recently worked as the Director of Special Programs at a 501c3 school that serves elementary-aged children, many of whom have been resettled as refugees with their families. Dr. Etienne has also been an adjunct instructor of Youth Program Design and Early Adolescent Development at Georgia Piedmont Technical College. Academically, Dr. Etienne holds a B.A. in Psychology from Philander Smith College, master's degrees in International Affairs and Development and Public Administration from Clark Atlanta University and Troy University, and a Ph.D. in Leadership and Org Change from Antioch University. His dissertation was titled “A Historical Narrative of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee's Freedom Schools and Their Legacy for Contemporary Youth Leadership Development Programming.”