What Is Freaknik? An In-Depth History of the Festival

A new Hulu Documentary is in the works

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Getty Images

If there’s anything the impending new Freaknik doc has done so far, it’s spark a conversation about the good, bad, and ugly of the event that used to have 1990s Atlanta in a chokehold. Of course, there’s all the funny memes, TikToks, and tweets about our parents being “scared” that the footage of them acting wild is finally going to be exposed, but aside from the fun is a side of Freaknik that doesn’t get talked about very often—the dark side. To tell the full story of Freaknik is to tell some of the things that happened that were just down right terrible. It wasn’t all fun and games no matter how much we try to pretend it was. So this is Freaknik—the good, the bad, and ugly.

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The History of Freaknik:

If you want to get technical, Freaknik is something that supposedly still happens today in some form, but 99.9 percent of the time when the word “Freaknik” is mentioned, it’s in reference to its 1990s peak, which would happen annually during spring break in Atlanta. What began as a small park picnic conceived by Spelman and Morris Brown students near the Atlanta University Center in 1983, quickly transformed into one of the biggest events of the year by the time the 1990s rolled around.

The primary reason for the event was to have something fun for local students to do that couldn't afford to return home during spring break, often being held during the third weekend in April. In the years that followed, the event would increase in popularity as it would attract students from other campuses, and eventually non-students along with celebrities.

Make no mistake—Freaknik was an event—something that would require weeks or months of preparation for. Atlanta (which is already no stranger to traffic) would be virtually impossible to drive through, certain businesses would close during the week, and sometimes as many as 500,000 people would pull up.

Freaknik was one of the elements that helped put the South on the map, as people who weren't from Atlanta would travel down to the festival. The event was also a place for many ATL artists to break into the industry, and an argument can be made that the Freaknik scene of the mid-1990s helped pave the way for the impact Atlanta music would have in the 2000s.

As you can imagine, Freaknik was heavily referenced in popular culture during its time at the top on many occasions. Here are some of the most popular references:

Sister Sister:

During the final season of Sister Sister, Tia and Tamera along with some friends decided to go Freaknik for spring break. Popular music artists Blackstreet and Mya were the guest performers for the "Freaknik" episode, marking one of the most memorable in the show's run. You can watch the full episode here.

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Paramount Plus
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Paramount Plus

Freaknik was also referenced in Spike Lee's 1988 film School Daze.

The Dark History of the Event:

Now the bad side. There were a lot of parts of Freaknik that were considered wild from the drunken behavior to the orgies. It wasn't out of the ordinary to see people engaging in public sexual behavior as well. What you feel about those particular things is what you feel, but what's not up for debate when it comes to right and wrong is that inappropriate sexual behavior from gang-banging to unwanted advancements and harassment did take place at the festival. This is the dark side we mentioned earlier that's often left out of the recaps and memories when it comes to peak Freaknik.

At the moment, it's unknown if the topic will be discussed in the upcoming documentary.

The Revival of Freaknik:

At some point Freaknik began to get out of control with as many as 400-500,000 people showing up for the event, and even with Atlanta being a relatively large city (big enough to host the Olympics in 1996), their was still concern over there being that many people in the area for days at time. Throw that in with the growing violence that was happening each subsequent year, and it was clear that a serious decision had to be made.

In 1999, a move was made by the police and elected officials to permanently end Freaknik, thus marking the end of an era. Attempts in the years since have been made to officially revive the festival, including a 2019 mini-festival comeback. Juvenile, Trina, and Luther Camp made appearances at 2019 Freaknik, which as a whole was well received by the public sparking conversation on a possible Freaknik return for the 2020s (which if there was any talk of having the event come back, it has most certainly been stalled because of the Coronavirus Pandemic). Guess we'll have to wait and see if anything comes to fruition in the coming years.

The Freaknik Hulu Documentary:

Freaknik: The Wildest Party Never Told will be executive produced by Jermaine Dupri, Luther Campbell, Peter Bittenbender and Melissa Cooper for Mass Appeal, Eric Tomosunas for Swirl Films, Terry Ross and Alex Avant, and it's already sparked quite a bit of controversy on social media with many feeling the documentary goes against their privacy rights.

The main concern for some is that their faces will be shown participating in wild activities, and that they had no knowledge at the time that their behavior would be captured and eventually used for a documentary that will be seen by millions. For some, the fear is that a potential identity reveal could lead to serious consequences within their respective careers (although its still unclear what will and will not be featured).

We imagine that the documentary is being worked on as we speak, so if we had to take a guess on when Freaknik: The Wildest Party Never Told will make its appearance, we'd venture to say that it will probably be sometime in 2024 (perhaps the third week of April would make a good date).

We'll be sure to keep you posted on any updates along the way. In the meantime if you are looking for some more entertainment content, check out all the details you need to know on the upcoming White Men Can't Jump remake starring Jack Harlow and Sinqua Walls, which will also premiere on Hulu.

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