On February 1, 1971, at Morris E. Leeds School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Teacher Samson L. Freedman, 56, was having a normal day. The art teacher had wrapped up his grading and was heading home on that sunny, but brisk Monday afternoon. As Freedman left the building he was ambushed from behind by a 14 year old student that Freedman had suspended earlier in the day for cursing in the hallway. The student gave no warning before firing a .45-caliber gun at the back of Freedman’s head. His death was instantaneous. His 25 year career ended with an execution style shooting which he never saw coming. Freedman was a gentle, unassuming man who wrote comments in pencil on the bottoms of the ceramic sculptures that his students made. He was a strong, respected voice in the community, a beloved teacher, and a fine artist.
To help honor Samson L. Freedman
8 thoughts on “A Fine Artist — Samson L. Freedman”
I was a substitute teacher at Leeds in November 1971, so, unfortunately, I never got to meet Mr. Freedman. I left Philadelphia in 1973. What ever happened to the boy who shot him?
Kevin Simmons was tried as an adult and was sentenced to 20 years in prison but was out after 9 years. I was a student at Leeds and Kevin was in a few of my classes. Mr. Freedman was firm about discipline but not unkind. Leeds had problems with gang fights, black on black, black on white. It was a horrible time. I remember the terrible day Mr. Freedman was shot. You could see where someone tried to wash the blood from the area where he fell but there were traces frozen on the ground. It’s been 52 years since that horrible day and I still remember it clearly.
My name is Juanita Rainey and I won the Samson L Freedman award at Leeds in 1982. Going through some old things in my home I found the plaque given to me back then and wondered if I googled his name what would I find. I was amazed to learn the story of Mr Freedman, which I never knew. I am honored to have received that award, and knowing more now the man and the story behind it makes me even more eager to continue to honor him and his name. Ironically, although I have been a nurse for 28 years, the past 4 years I have transitioned into an educator. This makes me all the more aware that where I am going is where I should be.
8/7/20, Juanita, just saw your posting. I was a student of Mr. Freedman’s back in 1961. I have something I would like to send to you, in light of your moving words. Please reach out to me, Wayne.Barnes.Investigations@gmail.com Thanks much, Wayne
I wrote a screenplay on this colorful neighborhood stunned by this incident…
My daughter Latasha won the Samson Freedman award around 1991. I knew the story and really appreciated it. My granddaughter attends Samson Freeman Hill Freedman School. I honor them.
Mr Freedman was my teacher at the time he was killed I remember coming into school the next day and hearing the horrifying news. All these years since, I remember this tragic event and remember Mr Freedman as being a great teacher who loved his job and respected his student. Perhaps he played a part in my being an educator today. We miss you, Mr Freedman.
I actually had the privilege of taking Mr. Freedman’s ceramic class . I remember him as kind, patient and talented… and a good teacher. I was shocked to hear of his death.. literally the last person that you would expect this to happen to.