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Freedom Schools as a Counternarrative Model: Understanding What African American Girls Need


This dissertation study analyzes a 6-week summer program called Freedom Schools, to see how their program components (Harambee, Integrated Reading Curriculum (IRC), Drop Everything and Read (DEAR), afternoon activities, the social action project, and the finale presentation) impacts African American girls’ racial identity and their perceptions of racial discrimination. In order to do this, I evaluated four Freedom Schools located in Northern California. My participants included 62 African American girls who were currently in 6th-12th grade and 35 Servant Leader Interns (SLIs). A mixed-method approach was used by having scholars keep a book log, a reading journal, partaking in one focus group during Week 6 of the program, completing a pre-survey during Week 1 of the program and a post-survey during Week 6 of the program. Servant Leader Interns (SLIs) were given a post-survey during Week 6 of the program, and a content analysis of the songs, books, questions, and activities scholars participated in was carried out. Using grounded theory analyses, I found that scholars reported all program components to have positively impacted their racial identity and had given them strategies to cope with racial discrimination. Three repeated measures ANOVAs examined the difference between scholars’ pre and post-test surveys for racial identity (centrality, private and public regard) and racial discrimination (boys, girls, and adults). There were no significant changes from pre to post-test for scholars’ racial identity or experiences with racial discrimination. However, after experiencing the program, African American girls were more worried about experiencing racial discrimination from boys. A one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) found that scholars who participated in the program for at least two summers had a more positive perspective on how other races viewed Black people. The Freedom Schools model, even though only a 6-week program, could help reimage middle schools and high schools to make academic success obtainable for all African American girls.

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