On October 22, 1963, a coalition of civil rights groups staged Freedom Day, a mass boycott and demonstration against segregated schools and inadequate resources for black students. Almost half of Chicago’s public school students skipped class, leaving many schools on the South and West Sides virtually empty.
The climax of Freedom Day was the march to the downtown office of the Chicago Board of Education. Thousands took to the streets, carrying signs that voiced their frustrations. Many targeted Superintendent Ben Willis, comparing him to segregationist George Wallace, the governor of Alabama. Police met the nearly 10,000 protestors and prevented them from entering the Chicago Board of Education building.
The protest ignited other demonstrations, each demanding an end to segregation in Chicago. Change occurred slowly, but this activism led to increasing support for integration and revealed that racial segregation extended beyond the south. [Summary from Facing Freedom.]
A documentary film is currently in production and features a project website to connect the 1963 Chicago Public School Boycott to today’s education struggles. For more information, and to help identify people in the march, visit www.63boycott.com.