At this point in the afternoon on October 22, 1963, the results would have been pouring into the Boycott organizing headquarters at the Appomattox Club on the South Side: the school board itself delivered the numbers, leading to an estimate of over 200,000 students absent, a massive success.
From the Chicago Defender:
Here are a few leaflets and odds-and-ends from Freedom School curriculums on October 22nd, 1963. Schoolbooks were a major issue for those participating in the Boycott, as many African American schools were either lacking libraries or up-to-date learning materials. Watch two students talk about their books in our footage of the Boycott below.
It wouldn’t be a Civil Rights protest without a little music! Students at Freedom Schools were taught these songs, which we found in a Freedom Day lesson plan at the SNCC Archive. Thanks Woodson Library!
50 years ago today, students who chose to boycott school were given the option to attend Freedom Schools, makeshift classes set-up by education activists primarily in churches, temples and synagogues. The curriculum was Civil Rights themed, and activities included historical skits, Freedom Songs, and painting picket signs for the rally downtown later that afternoon.
Below is some of our footage from one of the Freedom Schools, taken (we believe) at the KAM Synagogue, now the headquarters of Rainbow PUSH Coalition. If you recognize anyone or have any further information about this Freedom School, contact us through our site.
This is the first time we’re releasing this footage – it has spent most of the past 50 years in a box. Enjoy!
The Boycott had a list of Thirteen Demands that was published in all the local newspapers, most significantly on the front page of the Chicago Tribune. Below is a copy of the actual press release of the Thirteen Demands, courtesy of the SNCC Archive at the Woodson Library:
This song – based, of course, on “This Land is Your Land” – was written by activists Don Rose and Wayne Willy to promote the Boycott. So far, we know that Lorne Cress Love (interviewed in our film), Curtis Muhammad, and Charles “Chico” Neblett of the Freedom Singers all performed on the track. This recording was broadcast on 98.7 WFMT’s “Midnight Special” the Friday before the Oct. 22 School Boycott.
If you have any more information about this recording, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Below is a compilation of articles from The Chicago Defender, the city’s great African American newspaper, which featured extensive coverage of the swiftly approaching Boycott.
Segregationist School Superintendent Benjamin C. Willis really knew how to accessorize. In addition to the “Willis Wagons,” trailers placed on playgrounds and parking lots of African American schools which he touted as a solution to overcrowding, he also had a masonry wall built outside of his offices to prevent sit-ins:
Finally, the Defender posted the locations of the Freedom Schools, where parents participating in the Boycott could take their children for a day of educational-themed programming. Most of these schools were in religious centers, such as churches or synagogues. Our film contains footage of a Freedom School that we believe was shot in the K.A.M. Temple, now the headquarters of Rainbow PUSH Coalition. You can see stills from that footage in our South Side gallery
If you worked at one of these centers or attended a Freedom School as a student, contact our project – we would love to hear your story.
The following was given to leaders of the Boycott all over the city for the protest that ultimately culminated in a 20,000-person strong march on downtown. The document details the time the protest was to take place, 4:00 pm on Oct 22, 1963.