Theatre as an emancipatory tool: classroom drama in the Mississippi Freedom Schools
In 1964, a civil rights project known as Freedom Summer took place in the state of Mississippi, USA. The project was organized by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO). The purpose of the project was to invite to Mississippi over a thousand college students from the North to help African Americans to register to vote. Part of the project included a six-week summer school programme for elementary and secondary school African American students known as Freedom Schools. Freedom Schools provided a progressive civics curriculum that empowered students to improve their local communities. A number of methods were incorporated to help students participate in the civics curriculum. Drama proved to be very popular in most of the Freedom Schools, providing both a forum for discussion of real problems and a means of social action. This essay describes a brief history of the Freedom School project, the origins of drama use, the reasons drama was considered important in the project, a description of drama use in five Freedom Schools, and a theoretical framework of the Freedom School drama experience.