About Us

The 1619 Freedom School is a five-days-a-week, after school program dedicated to delivering intensive literacy instruction and a culturally responsive curriculum to bridge the academic opportunity gap among low-income public school students in Waterloo, Iowa.

“1619”, the year the first enslaved Africans were sold into the English colonies that in 1776 would form the United States, marks the birth of Black America. “Freedom School” evokes the legacy of the free, community schools launched by SNCC during the Civil Rights Movement in order to educate Black youth on their history and empower them to fight their oppression with the goal of achieving social, political and economic equality in the United States. 

Our motto, “Liberation Through Literacy,” resides within the Black tradition of belief that education is the key to freedom, and seeks to remind our children and our community that they come from a heritage of Black people who so believed in the power of literacy  that they risked their lives for literacy during slavery, when it was illegal for Black Americans to learn to read and write.

In our inaugural year, we will serve Walter Cunningham Elementary, Waterloo’s highest poverty and most segregated school. The program will begin by serving fourth graders—the year literacy instruction ends—whose standardized test scores show they are the most academically behind. The program will later expand to other grades and schools. 

The 1619 Freedom School will work with the Waterloo Community School District to identify students most in need of literacy support.  Our program is free of charge to students and families. We have partnered with educators from Georgetown University and the University of Missouri to design a literacy curriculum built around Black history. This curriculum will be available as an open sourced, free resources for communities across the country. 

About Us

The 1619 Freedom School is a five-days-a-week, after school program dedicated to delivering intensive literacy instruction and a culturally responsive curriculum to bridge the academic opportunity gap among low-income public school students in Waterloo, Iowa.

“1619”, the year the first enslaved Africans were sold into the English colonies that in 1776 would form the United States, marks the birth of Black America. “Freedom School” evokes the legacy of the free, community schools launched by SNCC during the Civil Rights Movement in order to educate Black youth on their history and empower them to fight their oppression with the goal of achieving social, political and economic equality in the United States. 

Our motto, “Liberation Through Literacy,” resides within the Black tradition of belief that education is the key to freedom, and seeks to remind our children and our community that they come from a heritage of Black people who so believed in the power of literacy  that they risked their lives for literacy during slavery, when it was illegal for Black Americans to learn to read and write.

In our inaugural year, we will serve Walter Cunningham Elementary, Waterloo’s highest poverty and most segregated school. The program will begin by serving fourth graders—the year literacy instruction ends—whose standardized test scores show they are the most academically behind. The program will later expand to other grades and schools. 

The 1619 Freedom School will work with the Waterloo Community School District to identify students most in need of literacy support.  Our program is free of charge to students and families. We have partnered with educators from Georgetown University and the University of Missouri to design a literacy curriculum built around Black history. This curriculum will be available as an open sourced, free resources for communities across the country.