Origins and Future Plans

From the "Thomas Day Education Project" to the Apprend Foundation (1992 - 2005)

The Apprend Foundation grew out of the "Thomas Day Education Project" (TDEP) formed in 1992 as a community service project of Apprend Associates, a media design company founded by Laurel and Charles Sneed based in the Research Triangle Park of North Carolina. Apprend Associates, formed in 1980, researched, designed, and produced highly effective and multiple award-winning instructional and technology-based programs for large national and international companies such as BMW-North America, IBM, and Burlington Industries. It also designed and produced programs for educational organizations such as the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction ( NCDPI), the Prevention Research Center (PRC) of the University of California-Berkeley, and SAS-In-School, a division of SAS Institute based in Cary, NC.

When on a contract working for the NCDPI in the early 1990s, it was observed that there were few videos or multi-media based instructional programs for NC public school teachers on African-American historical figures native to NC. The Sneeds desired to address this gap by using the "new digital technology" to infuse more African American history and culture into the NC K-12 curriculum. Their initial focus was Thomas Day (1801-1861), a free black NC cabinetmaker whose innovative furniture designs and early use of steam power made him a significant historical figure in the state and beyond. Thomas Day, his life, work and sites related to him, continue to be a major focus of the "Crafting Freedom" workshops. For more on this extraordinary furniture maker, his work, and his social history, please see Research: Thomas Day.


The Apprend Foundation's Accomplishments During 2005 – 2018

The Crafting Freedom teacher workshops continued to be funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) during most of the summers during this period. Over 500 teachers participated. There was also one two-week summer teacher institute in 2007 with 30 educators attending from around the country. During 2007–2010 Apprend received a major Materials Development grant from the NEH. It funded the design and production of the Crafting Freedom Materials Project (see: This is an extensive digital collection of original classroom- tested and scholar-vetted lesson plans, teacher guidance, and instructional media and other materials about several 19th century African American figures - artists, entrepreneurs, and abolitionists. The individuals taught in the Crafting Freedom website materials "crafted freedom" and created greater opportunities for themselves, their loved ones, and for others of their race during the Antebellum period. Apprend collaborated on a variety of projects during this period with organizations such as the Media Lab at the City University of New York; Duke University's Center for the Study of African and African-American History; and the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. Projects included: mobile tour research, design and development; exhibit planning and design; and historical documentary film development. "Crafting Freedom In-School," a program offering workshops directly to students at the elementary and middle grade levels, was also initiated during this period.

The Future: Transitioning into the Crafting Freedom Institute( 2018 - Future)

As the Apprend Foundation "transitions" into the "Crafting Freedom Institute," it's natural to ask: "Why change the organization's name to the "Crafting Freedom" Institute"? Crafting Freedom is the name of the teacher workshops that have been offered 1000+ K-12 teachers nationwide since 2005. This term has myriad connotations. First and foremost"Crafting freedom" refers to the myriad ways African Americans during the era of slavery, "crafted freedom" for themselves, their families, and others of their race. It also connotes how African Americans during the era of slavery used their craft skills and other talents to earn money to purchase the legal freedom of themselves and other loved ones. Indeed, most black entrepreneurs during the era of slavery were artisans of one kind or another. "Crafting Freedom" also suggests the "craftiness" or cunning required to navigate the intricacies of race, culture and power to improve one's own and others' lives. This was important for African Americans during the era of slavery, but it is also critical for African Americans - and indeed all Americans - in today's racially diverse society.

The meaning/s of "Crafting Freedom" has been further expanded primarily by teachers in the Crafting Freedom workshops. Albert Thoms, an elementary teacher from Raleigh, noted that: "By learning American history, we are all crafting freedom for ourselves and our students. " Several others ha e referenced this quote from President Barack Obama's first inaugural address

"...While freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth."

In other words while all Americans are responsible for collectively securing our freedom, on an individual level, it is each citizen's duty to devise or craft their own path to freedom.

Because "Crafting Freedom," embodies all of the above meanings, each of which is relevant to the subject matter, core values and mission of the Foundation, the board of directors voted unanimously to to re-name the organization the "Crafting Freedom Institute."