In July 1963, students from Queens College (QC) and a group of New York City teachers traveled to Prince Edward County (PEC), Virginia, to teach local black youth in Freedom Schools. The county had eliminated public education four years earlier to avoid a desegregation order. PEC Freedom Schools represented the first major effort to recruit an integrated group of outside teachers and students to educate black students in a civil rights battleground over an entire summer.
In contrast to the racial and class tensions that arose between black leaders and predominantly white volunteers in other civil rights campaigns, PEC volunteers willingly deferred to the expertise of local and outside black leaders. This paper identifies the relatively modest scope and well-defined mission of the program, the real-world experiences of volunteers, and the high quality of black leadership as factors that led to this positive outcome.