Douglas Robinson, The New York Times, 16 April 1967
Thousands of antiwar demonstrators marched through the Streets of Manhattan yesterday and then massed in front of the United Nations building to hear United States policy In Vietnam denounced.
The Police Department’s office of Community Relations said that police, off leers at the scene estimated the number of demonstrators outside the United Nations at “between 100,000 and 125,000.”
It was difficult to make any precise count because people were continually leaving and entering the rally area. It was also almost Impossible to distinguish the demonstrators from passersby and spectators.
On Friday the police had announced that they were preparing for a crowd of 100,000 to 400,000.
Leaders of Parade It was the largest peace demonstration staged in New York since the Vietnam war began. It took four hours for all the marchers to leave Central Park for the United Nations Plaza.
The parade was led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dr. Benjamin Spock, the pediatrician, and Harry Belafonte, the singer, as well as several other civil rights and religious figures, all of whom linked arms as they moved out of the park at the head of the line.
The marchers—who had poured into New York on chartered buses, trains and cars from cities as far away as Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Chicago—included housewives from Westchester, students and poets from the Lower East Side, priests and nuns, doctors, businessmen and teachers.
Chant From Youths As they began trooping out of Central Park toward Fifth Avenue, some of the younger demonstrators chanted: “Hell no, we won’t go,“ and “Hey, Hey, L. B. J., How Many Kids Did You Kill Today.”
Most of the demonstrators, however, marched silently as they passed equally silent crowds of onlookers. At several points—notably Central Park South from the—Avenue of the Americas to Fifth Avenue—the sidewalks were swarming with onlookers. Other blocks were almost deserted.
Some of the marchers were , hit with eggs and red paint. At 47th Street and Park Avenue, several demonstrators were struck by steel rods from a building under construction. Some plastic cups filled with sand barely missed another group. There were no serious injuries.
At least five persons were arrested for disorderly conduct. Three youths were taken into custody when they tried to rush a float that depicted the Statue of Liberty.
The demonstration here and a similar One in San Francisco were sponsored by the Spring Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam, a loose confederation of leftwing, pacifist and moderate antiwar groups;
A few minutes before 11 AM, an hour before the parade started, about 70 young men gathered on an outcropping of rock in the southeast comer of the Sheep Meadow in Central Park to bum their draft cards. They were quickly joined by others, some of whom appeared to have decided to join in on the spot.
Hard to Check The demonstrators said that nearly 200 cards were burned, although in the chanting, milling throng it was impossible to get an accurate count or to tell whether all the papers burned were draft cards.
Surrounded by a human chain that kept out hundreds of onlookers, the demonstrators first clustered In small groups around cigarette lighters, then sat down and passed cards up to a youth holding a flaming coffee cam Cheers and chants of “Resist, Resist,” went up as small white cards—many of which were passed hand to hand from outside the circle—caught fire.
Many of the demonstrators carried or wore daffodils and chanted “Flower Power.”
It was the first large draft-card, burning in the protests against the war in Vietnam, although groups of up to a dozen had publicly burned their cards.
Among the group yesterday was a youth in the uniform, jump boots and green beret of the Army Special Forces, whose name tag said “Rader.” He identified himself as Gary Rader of Evanston, Ill., and said he had served a year and a half of active duty as a reservist.
Like the rest of the demonstrators, the card burners were a mixed group. Most were of college age, and Included bearded, button-wearing hippies, earnest students in tweed coats and ties, and youths who fitted in neither category.
There were a number of girls who burned half of their husband’s or boy friend’s draft cards while the men burned the other half. Among the burners were a sprinkling of older men, including several veterans and the Rev. Thomas Hayes of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship.
Last week the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit held unconstitutional a law passed in 1965 banning draft-card burning under pain of a maximum 5-year sentence and a $10,000; fine; Two convictions under the law, however, have been upheld by United States Courts of Appeals in the Second and Eighth Circuits.
Vietcong Flags Raised In his speech at the United Nations rally, Dr. King repeatedly called on the United States to “honor its word0 and “stop the bombing of North Vietnam.”
“I would like to urge students from colleges all over the nation to use this summer and coming summers educating and organizing communities across the nation against war,” Dr. King told the crowd.
Before making his speech, the minister and a five-man delegation presented a formal note to Dr. Ralph Bunche, Undersecretary for Special Political Affairs at the United Nations.
The note said: “We rally at the United Nations in order to affirm support of the principals of peace, universality, equal rights and self-determination of peoples embodied in the Charter and acclaimed by mankind, but violated by the United States.” The demonstrators began to assemble in Central Park’s Sheep Meadow early in the morning.
On one grassy knoll, a group calling itself the United States Committee to Aid the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam built a 40-foot high tower of black cardboard tubing. They then attached a number of Liberation Front (Vietcong) flags, of blue and red with a gold star in the center.
At 12:20 P.M., the parade stepped off from Central Park South and the Avenue of the Americas, with Dr. King and the other leaders in the vanguard. They were surrounded by a group of parade marshals who linked hands to shield them from possible violence. From the hundreds of people lining the route of march came expressions of anger or support.
“I think it’s terrible, ” said Carl Hoffman, an engineer from Hartford, who stood at the corner where the march began.
Nearby, 20-year-old Estelle Klein, an office manager from Queens, gazed at the students, nuns, businessmen, veterans and doctors marching by and said: “I’d be out there too, but I don’t know, I just don’t think it’ll do any good.”
As the demonstrators moved east on 59th Street, they encountered bands of youths carrying American flags and hoisting placards with such slogans as “Bomb Hanoi” and “Dr. Spock Smokes Bananas.”
The bands of youths ran along the sidewalks paralleling the line of march, calling insults at the demonstrators.
Along one stretch of high-rise apartment houses on Lexington Avenue, eggs were dumped from a number of windows and many marchers had their clothes stained with red paint tossed by persons behind police barricades.
Guests Peer Out From the windows of the Barbizon-Plaza Hotel the Plaza and the St. Moritz, guests—a few still in pajamas—peered from their rooms at the throng moving out of the park. Most of these watchers neither applauded nor heckled.
Although the demonstrators were supposed to follow a line of march set up by the police, several thousand members of the Harlem contingent broke away and marched down Seventh Avenue through Times Square.
Several fistfights broke out in Times Square between angry motorists caught in a huge traffic jam and the paraders.
At 42d Street and Second Avenue, a fight broke out between several spectators and 19-year-old Edward Katz of Manhattan. Mr. Katz said later that he was trying to get to his car with his wife and baby when “a group of anti-peace people started knocking over the baby carriage.”
By 4 P.M., the last of the marchers had moved out of Central Park, leaving it looking like at disaster area. The paths and roadways were covered with litter.
There were several floats in the parade, including one on which Pete Seeger, the folk singer, rode with a number :of children. They sang folk songs like “This Land Is Your Land” as they rolled along the line of march.
Most of the marchers carried signs that had been authorized and printed by the Spring Mobilization Committee. Among the slogans were “Stop the Bombing,0 “No Vietnamese Ever Called Me Nigger’! and, “Children Are Not Born to Burn.”
There were many unauthorized banners and placards, however. One, a bed sheet carried by three young men, bore in large black letters the words, “Ho Chi Minh is a Virgin.”
A minor scuffle between the police and the peace marchers broke out at 3 P.M. on the south side of 42d Street just west of First Avenue when some marchers tried to turn north.
Patrolmen, on foot moved into the crowd, trying to push them into line. Other policemen on horseback charged into the throng and helped turn the marchers back. Nearby, counter-demonstrators screamed: “Kill them, kill them.”
The speeches at the United Nations did not, start until after 2 P.M. While the demonstrators waited, filling the plaza from 47th to 42d Streets, they were entertained by folk singers.
An overflow crowd filled the side-streets west of First Avenue. More than 2,000 policemen were on hand at the United Nations to keep order, and to separate demonstrators from counter-demonstrators.
‘Be-in’ at the Park A “be-in” of several thousand young men and women preceded the start of the parade. They gathered on a rock but-cropping in the southeast corner of the Sheep Meadow, dancing and singing to the music of guitars, flutes and drums.
Many of the young people had painted their faces and legs with poster paint. The sweet smell of cooking bananas hung over the group.
Unidentified demonstrators set fire to an American flag held up on a flagstaff in the park before the march began, the police said. No arrests were made in connection with the incident.
After leaving Dr. Bundle’s office at the United Nations, Dr. King told newsmen that the “demonstration was “just a beginning of a massive outpouring of concern and protest activity against this illegal and unjust war.”
The speeches ended soon after 5 P.M. when a downpour drenched the plaza, converting it into a field of soggy clothing, peeling placards and deep puddles.
The rally area was almost completely deserted by 6:30, except for crews from the Sanitation Department who were cleaning up a mountain; of debris.
Speakers at the rally, in addition to Dr. King, included Floyd McKissick, national secretary of the Congress of Racial Equality, and Stokely Carmichael, leader of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee.
Mr. Carmichael, who spoke against background shouts of “black power,” described the United States’ presence in Vietnam as “brutal and racist,” and declared that he was against “drafting young men, particularly young black Americans.”
Mr. McKissick called for the immediate withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam and predicted that the turnout of marchers would bring “some positive, action” from Washington.
The Rev. James Bevel, who was national director of Spring Mobilization, said he would give President Johnson “one month to stop murdering those folks in Vietnam.”
“That’s all we’ll give him, one month to pull those guns^out,” Mr. Bevel said with his fists upraised. “If he doesn’t, we’ll close down New York City.” He did not elaborate.
Before leaving Central Park, Mr. Belafonte told newsmen that he was participating in the demonstration because “the war in Vietnam—like all wars—is immoral.”
International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia
1649: Levellers, Thompson, Perkins and Church shot in Burford, England for mutiny, on Oliver Cromwell’s orders.
1838: First Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women held in Philadelphia.
1917: Thomas Mooney had his execution stayed pending appeal.
1919: Winnipeg General Strike: Strike committee votes to permit resumption of bread and milk shipments.
1919: Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom formally established in Zurich.
1940: Emma Goldman was buried in Waldheim Cemetery in Chicago.
1947: US President Truman ends nationwide railroad strike with threats to take over the railroads and send in the army.
1957: The Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom in Washington, DC is at the time the largest nonviolent demonstration for civil rights.
1961: Nashville students, coordinated by Diane Nash, John Lewis, and James Bevel, take up the Freedom Ride, signaling the increased involvement of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
1968: Among others, Philip and Daniel Berrigan raided a draft board office in Catonsville, Maryland, burning over 600 draft files.
1968: Over 200,000 workers on strike in France as part of a general strike.
1968: Thousands of students march for second day in a row from Sorbonne to Renault works despite trade union leaders’ opposition.
1992: “Black May” events begin in Thailand as 200,000 people protest in Bangkok against the military regime.
2004: Marcia Kadish and Tanya McCloskey become first legally married same-sex partners in the US.
2007: Baristas at an East Grand Rapids, Michigan, Starbucks announce their membership in IWW Starbucks Workers Union.
2012: Quebec Student Strike: Government tables special legislation. It includes severe financial penalties for people blocking schools along with rules about how to protest. Protesters must inform police of their plans eight hours in advance, and police have the right to move a protest location.
2013: An anti-homophobic rally was held in Tbilisi, Georgia. the rally were met by thousands of protestors opposing homosexuality, who were allowed to break through a police cordon and violently pursued them, beating and throwing stones at them. The rally was the first officially sanctioned anti-homophobic demonstration held in Georgia.
Kwame Ture (June 29, 1941 – November 15, 1998), also known as Stokely Carmichael, was a Trinidadian-American black activist active in the 1960s American Civil Rights Movement.
He rose to prominence first as a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC, pronounced “snick”) and later as the “Honorary Prime Minister” of the Black Panther Party. Initially an integrationist, Carmichael later became affiliated with black nationalist and Pan-Africanist movements.
He popularized the term “Black Power” and ALSO INVENTED THE TERM “INSTITUTIONAL RACISM”
“It is a call for black people in this country to unite, to recognize their heritage, to build a sense of community. It is a call for black people to define their own goals, to lead their own organizations.” ..Kwame Ture
The [white anarchist] ignorance of Black freedom movements is so profound that even anarchistic tendencies within them get ignored. Nat Turner led a slave uprising in 1831 that killed over fifty whites and struck terror throughout the South; it should clearly count as one of the most important insurrections in American history. Historians often describe William Lloyd Garrison, a leader of the abolitionist movement, as a “Christian Anarchist” (e.g. Perry 1973), yet he is almost never included in anarchist-produced histories. The Black-led Reconstruction government in South Carolina from 1868-1874, which Du Bois dubbed the “South Carolina Commune,” did far more toward building socialism than the Paris Commune in 1871 ever did. Ella Baker’s anti-authoritarian critique of Martin Luther King Jr. encouraged young civil rights workers to create their own autonomous and directly democratic organization, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), arguably the most important direct action civil rights group. Further, the racial consciousness produced by these struggles has often been broader, radical, and international than the consciousness produced by other U.S. struggles, even if it describes itself as “nationalist” (See Robin Kelley’s great book Freedom Dreams for more on this). Yet these persons and events curiously form no part of the anarchist scene’s historical tradition.
Lucy Parsons and the Black Panthers tend to be the main links between Black struggles and American anarchists’ historical sense. Parsons, a militant anarchist organizer in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and possibly a former slave, is a problematic connection to the Black tradition because although she fought lynching and racial discrimination, she was not part of the Black community and often denied her Black identity. (She was married to a white man, Albert Parsons, so this denial may in part have been to evade anti-miscegenation laws. See Lowndes 1995 and Roediger 1986.)
Many anarchists fetishize the Panthers because they seem to fit both the infoshops and insurrection models (i.e. men and women with guns serving breakfast to Black children), but this position tends to idealize the Panthers rather than critically evaluate and integrate their experience into the anarchist tradition.
Julian Bond was born on January 14, 1940. He played an important role in the Civil Rights Movement by leading nonviolent protests to help integrate public spaces in Atlanta. He was also a founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Bond went on to serve the state legislature for 20 years.
He’s pictured here being interview by press in 1966.
‘Julian Bond has been an activist in the civil rights, economic justice, and peace movements since his college years. In 1960, Bond helped found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and earlier that year, he helped create the Atlanta University student civil rights organization, which directed several years of nonviolent protests and won integration of Atlanta’s movie theaters, lunch counters, and parks. Bond served 20 years in the Georgia House and Georgia Senate, drafting more than 60 bills that became law. He was president of the Atlanta branch of the NAACP for 11 years and in 1998, was elected chair of the NAACP national board and served for 11 terms until stepping down in 2010.’
Fannie Lou Hamer, a Mississippi sharecropper, changed this nation’s perspective on democracy. She worked for political, social and economic equality for herself and all African Americans. She fought to integrate the national Democratic Party, and became one of the first black delegates to a presidential convention.
Fannie Lou Townsend was born in Montgomery County, Mississippi, in 1917, the youngest of 20 children. By the age of six she was working in the cotton fields. She became known in the civil rights movement as a captivating preacher and singer, inspiring others with her moral and physical courage.
In 1962, the Student Nonviolence Coordinating Committee (SNCC) came to Hamer’s town and encouraged blacks to register as voters. Hamer volunteered, even though she had not previously known that it was a Constitutional Right for blacks to vote. After registering herself and working with SNCC, she lost her job, received death threats, and was severely beaten by the police in an effort to intimidate her. Hamer helped found the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) in 1964 because blacks were not allowed in the all-white regular party delegation. Although Lyndon Johnson refused to seat the MFDP, the Democrats agreed that in the future no delegation would be seated from a state where anyone was illegally denied the right to vote.
Hamer also worked towards achieving financial independence for blacks. In 1969, she helped to start Freedom Farms Corporation, which lent land to blacks until they had enough money to buy it. She worked with the National Council of Negro Women, organized food co-operatives, and helped convene the National Women’s Political Caucus in 1970.
Though Hamer wanted children, a white doctor had sterilized her without permission, so she adopted daughters instead. In her last years, she received many honors and awards. Engraved on her headstone in her hometown of Ruleville, Mississippi, are her famous words: “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
The U.S. Government has NEVER Favored Independent Black Political Thought
FBI discusses moves “to increase the friction between SNCC and BPP.” (the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Black Panther Party)
FBI considers “various counterintelligence techniques” including a suggestion to “convey the impression that Carmichael is a CIA agent.” (Stokely Carmichael)
Authorization for a publicly-operated telephone wiretap to spy on the phone calls of Bayard Rustin.
A copy of a speech that Coretta Scott King was to deliver is forwarded to the FBI BEFORE HER SPEAKING ENGAGEMENT even occurs because the informant was “of the opinion that it would be an attempt to tie the anti-vietnam war movement to the civil rights movement.”
Report of a disturbance by a group called “Five Percenters” who reportedly “had two policemen pinned up in Hotel Theresa, One Hundred Twentyfifth St. and Seventh Ave, NYC, and were threatening them.”
Notice the diversity of Black political leaders under surveillance (Stokely Carmichael; Bayard Rustin; Coretta Scott King)
Notice the varying Black political ideologies considered a “threat” (the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; the Black Panther Party; the NAACP; the Nation of Gods and Earths)
Notice that none of the actions cited in the files were illegal (with perhaps the exception of #5)
INFO: Bayard Rustin was a leader in U.S. movements for civil rights, socialism, non-violence, and gay rights. He was the chief organizer of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Rustin also influenced young activists, such as Stokely Carmichael, in organizations like the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). He was arrested for his sexuality in 1953; LGBT people were criminalized in parts of the United States until 2003. Rustin’s extremely public criminal charge was criticized by some fellow civil-rights leaders, including Black power militants. This led to Rustin choosing to remain a behind the scenes influential leader to avoid conflict. In the 1970s, he became a public advocate on behalf of gay and lesbian causes.
FOR MORE INFO Search: “March on Washington for Jobs & Freedom (1963)”, “CORE”, “SNCC” , “AFL-CIO ”, “Stokely Carmichael”
Angela Yvonne Davis, born on January 26, 1944, in Birmingham, Alabama, became a master scholar who studied at the Sorbonne. She joined the U.S. Communist Party and was jailed for charges related to a prison outbreak, though ultimately cleared. Known for books like Women, Race & Class, she has worked as a professor and activist who advocates gender equity, prison reform and alliances across color line. She is often associated with the Black Panthers and with the black power politics of the late 1960s and early 1970s. She joined the Communist Party when Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968.
She was active with the SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) before the Black Panthers. Angela Davis also ran for U.S. Vice President on the Communist Party Ticket in 1980. She is internationally known in her ongoing work to combat all forms of oppression in the U.S. and abroad.
‘Black Liberation’, James Forman, Students for a Democratic Society, United States, 1968. Text of a speech given at the Western Regional Youth Conference in Los Angeles, 1967. James Forman was a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) during the height of the Southern Civil Rights Movement, and later the Black Workers Congress in the early 1970s.
As a student at the University of Chicago, Bernie Sanders was active in both
the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Nonviolent
Coordinating Committee (SNCC). In 1962, he was arrested
for protesting segregation in public schools in Chicago; the police
came to call him an outside agitator, as he went around putting up
flyers around the city detailing police brutality against African-americans.
This summer marks the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer, a movement to open the polls to blacks in Mississippi and end the state’s white supremacy.
Freedom Summer was organized by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which recruited 700 college students–mostly white students from the North–to come down to Mississippi to help African Americans register to vote.
A new documentary called Freedom Summer airs on PBS tomorrow. The film’s director Stanley Nelson, and longtime journalist and one of Freedom Summer’s organizers Charles Cobb joined Fresh Air to discuss the movement. Cobb explains how SNCC trained the students for their entry into the violent South:
Charles Cobb: We could show people how best to try and protect yourself from actual physical [harm] – what to do if you’re attacked by a mob, how to cover your body, how to protect somebody who you’re with without engaging in fistfights or whipping out a pistol… We could show people how to do that. We had some experience in that because we all came out of the sit-in movement and were used to being surrounded by mobs of hostile whites.
JUST A FEW REMINDERS OF WHAT REAL PROTESTS LOOK LIKE
AIM (American Indian Movement) occupies the headquarters of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Washington, DC
BLA (Black Liberation Army) rally to protest the imprisonment of Dessie Woods
SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) members and supporters RALLY INSIDE A JAILHOUSE they were being booked into
MOVE (Christian Movement for Life) member rally to protest the wholesale murders of most of their members by the Philly PD
DFD (Deacons for Defense) rally, Louisiana
BPP (Black Panther Party) members occupy the State Capitol in California to protest pending gun control legislation
ATHLETES JOHN SMITH AND TOMMY CARLOS raise the Black Power salute at the 1968 Summer Olympic games
Y'all reblog the shit out of images like these during February… but then when people criticize that weak shit the Clippers called a “protest,” y'all start whining about ‘shaming’ and 'being divisive’ and blah blah blah.
You CANNOT be a PoC in white supremacist North America who will only consider protesting injustice in ways that will not anger your oppressor or disrupt the little creature comforts you’re used to and expect to be taken seriously.
If ANYTHING about this post inspires you to offer a rebuttal… don’t waste the keystrokes; DO quit following this blog. Then go kick rocks. If you would object to any of the above, you weren’t going to put any of the info you find on blackourstory to good use anyway. I’m not spending my valuable time and expertise creating and reblogging select content here AND THEN ALSO justifying or debating about it with the milquetoast and benighted.
while bernie was mayor of Burlington, he rode snow plows himself to make sure streets were cleared after snowstorms
as mayor he also hired the first female police officer in the country in the 1980s
in the 60′s, sanders was a coordinator for the student nonviolent coordinating committee (SNCC), a college student civil rights group that often worked w/ Martin Luther King, Jr
throughout his career, sanders has passionately defended women’s rights to contraceptives/abortion
sanders wrote a letter to obama calling for complete marriage equality back in 2011 and has extensively supported acts to eliminate job discrimination based on sexual orientation
on the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Equality Index, Sanders has a perfect score of 100%; the HRC is the largest LGBT rights/equality groups in the USA
sanders vocally protested going into iraq
the first bill Sanders ever introduced to congress regarded financial compensation for income lost by veterans who had been deployed in the Persian Gulf War
without congress, bernie wrote a letter to obama asking POTUS to close loopholes that corporations/the wealthy use to evade taxpaying
sanders isn’t just a vocal defender of the middle-class, but a member of it; with among the most modest salaries in the senate, he’s the only current candidate who isn’t too wealthy/privileged to be out of touch w/ the needs of the american middle class
some quotes by sanders about college education/tuition: “If we were to reduce the President’s proposed increase in military spending by less than half, and instead invest that money in educational opportunities for today’s college students, we could cut tuition by 55%” , “We must end the practice of the government making billions in profits from student loans taken out by low and moderate income families”
Young people named it the Freedom Summer Project. It was the largest campaign to register voters—in 1964, an election year—and it was the most significant demonstration of African Americans’ political strength in the Civil Rights Movement. Congressman John Lewis, then chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), wrote that the objective of Freedom Summer was to “force a showdown between the local and federal government.” One significant yet overlooked part of this history is the way activists moved beyond the ballot box to politicize the right to an education.
A segment of the Freedom Riders, activists who painstakingly sat in at segregated bus terminals in 1961, organized the project. When they moved to Mississippi to register voters, young people called them “Freedom Fighters.” Their presence inspired a level of terrorism that had not been seen in the South since Reconstruction. From June to August 1964 alone, police arrested more than 1,000 protesters and local segregationists murdered three freedom workers, assaulted over 80 activists, opened fire on demonstrators over 35 times, and set fire to 35 churches. Activists remained undeterred. During the course of the summer they successfully pressured Congress to end a seven-week filibuster and pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Fifty years later, it is clear that this struggle for a quality education was just as important as the right to vote. In the midst of the violence that summer, young people still in middle and high school joined the frontlines of the Civil Rights Movement. They participated in marches and demonstrations. They served time in jail. But the story of the Freedom Schools and the struggle for educational quality was relegated to the back pages of the New York Times.
If the civil rights revolution was to succeed, organizers reasoned, African Americans still in their teens had to be properly educated. As more than 2,000 college students from across the country volunteered to register voters, a select minority opted to teach in 41 “Freedom Schools”—alternative middle and high schools that taught the art of resistance and the strategies of protest. The United Federation of Teachers in New York sent the largest contingent of teachers, and over 2,500 students were ready to greet them.
The Freedom Schools raised questions about the very nature of American democracy—in particular, how to provide a quality education to all citizens, a still-unrealized promise that had been embedded in the monumental Brown v. Board of Education decision (1954). In 1964, a small yet vocal number of African American students opted to boycott the public schools altogether. They questioned the logic of entering white classrooms that had reacted violently to desegregation orders. For students who boycotted their public schools, Freedom Schools served as a replacement for conventional classrooms.
Other Freedom School students remained in their segregated schools once the summer was over but demanded improvements. They insisted that white educators include African American history and literature in the curriculum. They pushed back against the goals of vocational education that typically defined black education and made it clear that they wanted preparation for college. Through it all, political consciousness remained paramount. When Freedom School students were suspended for wearing “One Man, One Vote” buttons in the Delta, students walked out and shut down the school. The court case that followed was used as precedent inTinker v. Des Moines (1969), which protected students’ right to free speech.