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Leading civil rights groups, LGBTQ+ groups, education advocates, social justice organizations, scholars and students held rallies across the country for the Freedom to Learn

NATIONWIDE — On Friday, May 3, 2024, The Freedom To Learn coalition hosted its 2nd annual National Day of Action with rallies in Washington, D.C and New York City in defense of education, racial justice, and democratic values. This national day of action also serves as the launch of Freedom Summer 2024 ahead of the critical election cycle. Freedom Summer was a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement in 1964 that brought national attention to the injustices Black people in Mississippi were facing with a combined focus on education and civic engagement. Sixty years later, civil rights leaders continue this legacy and declare the freedom to learn as a critical component of preserving multiracial democracy and resisting attacks on antiracist thought and racial justice. Speaking at the Supreme Court, leaders commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, which recognized the essential connection between education, racial justice and democracy as we face contemporary attempts to undermine all of those ideals. Speakers made evident the current threats to our democracy, including book bans, curriculum restrictions in schools, crackdowns on voting rights, and other reactionary policies advocated by The Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025. In so doing, they honored the galvanizing spirit of Freedom Summer 1964, to launch a broad coalition in defense of multiracial democracy.


Kimberlé Crenshaw, Co-Founder and Executive Director, African American Policy Forum:

“The freedom to learn is the freedom to live. We cannot survive our current political moment or unlock the promise of our future without the tools to understand and make sense of our past. And that’s precisely why those opposing democracy and equality are trying to take away our books, our concepts, and our knowledge. Ignorance about our past is the Achilles heel of democracy. And we can’t save this democracy without confronting its weakest link. That’s why we have to fight for the freedom to learn.”


Marc Morial, President and CEO, National Urban League

“Today, the National Urban League affirms our unwavering commitment to ensuring that every American has the freedom to learn the truth. We will tirelessly advocate for an education system that uplifts all. But this is not just about defending educational equity – it is about defending the very essence of our democracy and our ongoing fight for racial justice. We are at a pivotal moment where the fabric of our society is threatened by those who wish to obscure the truth of our history and limit our potential. This year’s Freedom Summer 2024 is a call to action for every American to stand against the tide of misinformation and suppression. Together, we can ensure that the next generation inherits a more just and informed world.”


Damon Hewitt, President and Executive Director, The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law: 

“We stand at a pivotal moment in our nation’s journey toward justice and equality. Radical forces have turned law, logic, and pedagogy upside down by banning truthful curriculum in our schools. These efforts narrow the scope of our historical narrative, diminishing the vast contributions of Black communities and other communities of color to our nation’s progress. Such efforts underscore a resistance to equity and inclusion. By endorsing the Freedom to Learn campaign, we recommit to championing a full and truthful recounting of American history. It is a celebration of the enduring strength and achievements of those who have advanced the cause of justice before us, and a declaration that we will fight to claim the future we deserve. Together, we advocate for an educational framework that embraces the complete narrative, ensuring that every generation understands the true breadth and complexity of our nation’s story and the critical role of diversity in our collective success.”


Melanie L. Campbell, President & CEO, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and Convenor, Black Women’s Roundtable

“The fight against racism and racists is never done. Sixty years after Freedom Summer 1964, we are still marching for freedom –  freedom to learn, freedom to work, freedom to start a business, freedom to determine when and how to start a family, freedom to vote, freedom to live. The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and the Black Women’s Roundtable and our state delegations across the nation are on the ground, online, and in community fighting for our freedoms. We demand that our local, state and federal elected officials do the same.” 


Rev. Adam Russell Taylor, President, Sojourners:

“Protecting the freedom to learn is at the heart of building a more inclusive and just multiracial democracy and represents both a civic and moral imperative.”


Judith Browne Dianis, President, Advancement Project:

“Our young people deserve to learn about their culture and history. This is fundamental to their education and development of a sense of self. As legislators across the country continue to attack the rights of students of color, we stand firm in the conviction that truth and inclusivity is in the best interests of all students. We are proud to stand alongside so many others to defend inclusive education.”


Svante Myrick, President of People For the American Way:

“The upcoming 70th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education should remind us of the tremendous power of the courts to preserve our freedoms and our democracy, especially as right-wing authoritarians continue fueling the flames of book bans, censorship, and masking the truth about our collective U.S. history. One of the best ways to counter the attacks and bigotry of right-wing authoritarians is to build a multigenerational, multiracial movement that supports young people’s freedom to read and freedom to learn. In 2024 and beyond, it is essential that we keep America moving forward. Together, we must continue all efforts to safeguard democracy and education from legislation and policies that seek to undermine truthful education and full democratic participation.”


Ebonie Riley, Vice President, National Action Network:

“The freedom to learn is the root of our freedom to vote, to advance economically, and to live our lives. Today, we are taking this stand to stop oppression in its tracks and create a better future for students, so they can become the leaders of tomorrow.”


Dominique Calhoun, President, National Bar Association:

“For almost 100 years, the National Bar Association has protected the rights and freedoms of all Americans in the United States. Today, we continue in the fight to ensure that all children, especially those of color, have access to their history — American history — to ensure that they are knowledgeable about our past in order to prepare for our future. History teaches us that when we are unaware of the past we are susceptible to repeat the ills of previous generations.  We must protect our future children by guaranteeing that they have the freedom to know the full story of the past.”


Rev. Terrance McKinley, Vice President of Movement Building and Strategy, National Black Child Development Institute

“The pursuit of justice for future generations is not a sprint, or a marathon; it is a relay race, with each baton pass marking progress in our ongoing struggle towards advancement. In the face of book bans, educational censorship, historical erasure, and the threat unchecked AI tools pose to exacerbate disparities, our young people are at risk of slipping backwards. We must be determined to shape a world that is more just and equitable for future generations of Black children, families, and communities than the one we live in today — a world where they not only survive but they also thrive. We must run after a future where every child has the freedom to learn!”


Victoria Kirby York, Director of Public Policy and Programs, National Black Justice Coalition:

“I am glad we’re clear and LOUD about the Multicultural democracy we are fighting to advance. Because our opponents are clear and loud that they only want a nation for some of us and will do whatever it takes to divide us to maintain the status quo.Our votes, advocacy, and actions must show that the Freedom to Learn is required for a functional democracy so that those we elect this year champion the repeal of all laws created to prevent a democracy for ALL of our people by ALL of our people.”


DaMareo Cooper, Co-Executive Director, Center for Popular Democracy

When our ancestors fought and won the Civil War, one of the first things legislators in reconstructed states did was create opportunities for formerly enslaved people to be educated. Education is the foundation of Black citizenship, and Black citizenship and the Civil Rights movement are the cornerstone of modern Human Rights movements.  Today, we must protect the freedom to learn all history so we don’t repeat historic failures.  


Catherine Beane, Sr. Vice President of Public Policy & Advocacy, The Young Women’s Christian Association:

“The continued and unwavering assault that we’ve seen on reproductive health, transgender rights, immigrant communities, and the very freedom to learn the full, complex, hard, true history of our nation– these attacks threaten democratic ideals and the very lives of women and people of color and all marginalized communities. YWCA has stood with women, children, and families for more than 160 years, and we know that the rolling back of rights and continuing attacks on what, where, and how our children learn, harm those we serve every day. In the face of this, YWCA has not and will not back down.”


Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers:

“For the extremist politicians behind these attacks on our freedom to learn, truth telling is a threat. They harbor a deep fear of the other, a fear of empathy and a fear of the diversity that keeps our nation strong. Autocrats have always set their sights on controlling knowledge because it diminishes their power and exposes their lies. Stifling ideas, silencing debate and appealing to the worst, rather than best, of us goes hand in hand with their plans to gut civil rights and erode trust in public institutions. The good news is that the American people don’t want culture wars and book bans, they want the freedom to learn and teach without censorship and interference. And they want the resources to strengthen our public schools, not laws and diktats that shame and stigmatize the most vulnerable.”


Bayliss Fiddiman, Director of Educational Equity and Senior Counsel, National Women’s Law Center:

“We cannot allow a vocal minority to create learning environments where our children feel shame, embarrassment, and stigma because of their identity. Students need access to accurate information, and they deserve to learn in environments that are affirming of their identity and their culture”


Wisdom Cole, National Director of Youth and College Division, NAACP

“Less than a century ago, the NAACP won the battle to desegregate our nation’s schools. 70 years later, we are battling for Black history to be taught in the same classrooms. Make no mistake – the war on wokeness is a war on Black America. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are the future. We refuse to live in the past.”


Rev. Kendal McBroom, Director of Civil and Human Rights, General Board of Church and Society

“The United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society stands in solidarity with partners across the country for the protection of democracy, DEI programs, and the accurate and factual depictions of history. For over a century, we have stood with others on Capitol Hill and local communities for equitable access to education. Amid attempts to censure and derail, as well as to delete and conform history, knowledge, and narratives to the will of imperialism and dark forces, we stand and join the great chorus of voices here today in saying: let the people learn! Let us learn in order to contribute and transform society. Let us learn in order to train up the next generation of leaders, thinkers, innovators, and social engineers. Let us learn in order to build bridges across cultures and people. Let us learn in order to do the work our souls require.”


In honor of the 60th anniversary of Freedom Summer 1964, leading civil rights, human rights, and social justice organizations,  education advocates, scholars and students organized both in-person and online to protect the freedom to learn. This unified mobilization across various communities acknowledged the coordinated racial backlash which has weaponized law and policy to advance book bans, anti-critical race theory laws, undermine affirmative action and eroded diversity, equity and inclusion efforts across the country. The coalition further highlighted how this backlash has been accelerated by the media, elements of the business community, and politicians, which have often appeased rather than combated this assault on civil rights. The Freedom To Learn campaign will continue beyond May 3rd, as the commitment to diversity and freedom of expression has become a top election issue for candidates in 2024. Taking inspiration from Freedom Summer 1964, this year’s Freedom Summer 2024 will have various activations, conferences and convenings to build the collective counter power for education and liberation. 




The Freedom to Learn Network is a coalition of the leading civil rights, human rights, and social justice organizations; democracy’s stakeholders; national teachers unions; education advocates; students; parents and people and organizations across the world, all united against the widespread attempts to limit antiracist education in US schools and undermine democracy. Learn about the movement to protect the future of multiracial democracy at