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Book Cover for: Spell Freedom: The Underground Schools That Built the Civil Rights Movement, Elaine Weiss

Spell Freedom: The Underground Schools That Built the Civil Rights Movement

Elaine Weiss

The acclaimed author of the "stirring, definitive, and engrossing" (NPR) The Woman's Hour returns with an eye-opening and inspiring account of four activists--Septima Clark, Myles Horton, Esau Jenkins, and Bernice Johnson--and their work to ensure the voting rights of Black Americans.

In the summer of 1954, Esau Jenkins and Septima Clark travelled to Tennessee's Highlander Center, a rural interracial training school for social change founded by Myles Horton, a white educator with roots in the labor movement. There, the three united behind a shared mission: preparing Black southerners to pass the suppressive literacy tests required to vote in the era of Jim Crow.

Together with beautician-turned-teacher Bernice Johnson, they launched the effort known as the Citizenship Schools project. By the time the Voting Rights Act was signed into law in 1965, this audacious, grassroots undertaking had grown into a subversive network of nine hundred schools, not only preparing thousands of Black citizens to vote, but creating a generation of activists trained in community organizing, political citizenship, and essential tactics of resistance and struggle.

In the vein of Hidden Figures and Devil in the Grove, Spell Freedom is both a crucial and inspiring lens into our past, and a deeply moving and necessary narrative for our present.

Book Details

  • Publisher: Atria/One Signal Publishers
  • Publish Date: Mar 4th, 2025
  • Pages: 384
  • Language: English
  • Dimensions: 9.00in - 6.00in - 0.99in - 1.28lb
  • EAN: 9781668002698
  • Categories: United States - 20th CenturyCivil RightsRace & Ethnic Relations

About the Author

Weiss, Elaine: - Elaine Weiss is a journalist and author whose magazine feature writing has been recognized with prizes from the Society of Professional Journalists. She is the author of The Woman's Hour and Spell Freedom and has given talks across the country on these subjects. Find out more at