African Methodist Episcopal Church and Presbyterian Seminary Come Together
Louisville Seminary | Jun 21, 2001
June 21, 2001, Louisville, Ky. – Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church and Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary have come together for the purpose of children. On June 25, the Evelyn T. Travis Freedom School will open its doors to 50 African American children in the poverty-stricken area of Louisville’s West End. It will be the first Freedom School to be launched in Kentucky by the church, a historical leader in civil rights movements, and the Seminary, which was supported historically by both the northern and southern branches of a church split by the War Between the States, prior to reunification in 1983. Is the first Freedom School, nationwide, to be staffed by seminary students.
The program will run from June 25 through July 27, and the parents of up to 50 children will not have to worry about day-care solutions while their sons and daughters are at the church-based program. The Evelyn T. Travis Freedom School (named for a Louisville civil rights activist who died in 1999) will provide nutritional meals, educational opportunities, an emphasis on reading and fun activities – in short, a safe, healthy environment for part of the summer.
Freedom Schools have historic roots. They were established as part of the voter registration and community mobilization effort during the legendary Freedom Summer of 1964. Just as they did then, Freedom Schools today, a direct service model of the Black Community Crusade for Children (BCCC), coordinated nationally by Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), aim to provide summer options for children where there are none and to strengthen parent and community involvement in the year-round achievement of African American children.
The fact that Quinn Chapel is the site for the new Freedom School is no coincidence. The A.M.E. church has a long history of standing up for the under privileged and advocating in behalf of children.
“Quinn Chapel is the cradle of the civil rights movement in Louisville,” stated Rev. George A. Moore, Jr., pastor of Quinn Chapel since 1999. “The public transportation movement in Louisville started at Quinn Chapel. We are known as a civil rights church.” And Pastor Moore believes the Freedom School can be the beginning of significant neighborhood change in the West End, where drive-by shootings and drug dealing unfortunately are the norm. “Quinn Chapel is very excited about working with Louisville Seminary in nurturing these children, who have so little, toward a brighter future. Many of them will be our next congregation,” he said.
Ms. Sheila Travis White is sending her daughter to the new Freedom School. “We live in a neighborhood with a crack house on our block. For my daughter and other children in the West End, the Freedom School means a safe environment during the summer…the mission of the school is that ‘no child be left behind,’” she said.
Ms. White is also excited about the school’s curriculum and program and is very pleased about its emphasis on reading. “My mother, Evelyn T. Travis, for whom the Freedom School is named, felt that reading was the most important part of a person’s life and development,” she said. “And she felt the greatest gift was to teach another person how to read.”
A master educator of curriculum in Kentucky, Ms. Travis was the first African American to run for statewide office as superintendent for public instruction. She was very active in the civil rights movement and passed on her values to her daughter, who added that it was because of her mother that she graduated from Central High School in 1979.
Rev. Charmayne Davis, a recent Christian education (MACE ’01) graduate from Louisville Seminary will direct the Freedom School, working in conjunction with the church she serves, Quinn Chapel. Last summer Rev. Davis took part in the weeklong Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) Conference on Child Advocacy at the Former Alex Haley Farm in Clinton, Tenn. The experience was part of Louisville Seminary’s Child Advocacy course, developed by Professor J. Bradley Wigger, director of the Center for Congregations and Family Ministries, and taught by Professor and Dean Dianne Reistroffer.
Part of the conference curriculum required each participant to write a major child advocacy project. As Davis began thinking about Louisville with its racial upheaval and skyrocketing violence during the summer months, she knew she had found her project, a Freedom School for Louisville’s most impoverished children.
The application process with CDF was intense, involving questions of and background information on all the partners – in this case, Quinn Chapel and Louisville Seminary. And once the church was accepted as a site, the search for the $40,000 budget to fund the program was on.
Rev. Davis also worked with the Seminary to provide the stipends for seven seminary students to work at the school, each receiving two field education credits. She also brought in the community YMCA, which agreed to share its recreational facilities with the school in the afternoons.
The purpose of helping children and families has united two institutions in interracial efforts toward a vision of improving the quality of life in one of Louisville’s communities. Even as Quinn Chapel and Louisville Seminary have planned to launch the Evelyn T. Travis Freedom School, transformation has begun in the new relationships that have been formed. The summer program is only the beginning of possible community transformation. Greater support for other programs throughout the city will be needed so that no child be left behind.
For information on this Freedom School and how to support its efforts, contact Rev. Charmayne Davis by letter to Louisville Seminary or by e-mail to FreeSchool2001@aol.com. For more information on Freedom Schools or the Children’s Defense Fund, visit their website at www.childrensdefense.org.