UPDATE February 16, 2016:
The Sanders campaign has confirmed that the video posted below is indeed of Bernie Sanders. “What sealed it was the watch the man is wearing; Mr. Sanders recalled owning a watch like that,” a senior advisor to the campaign told the New York Times.
Thanks to the media response spurred by the posting of our footage, the Chicago Tribune dug up these acetate negatives from their archives. While a photo of Bernie Sanders captures the moment he was arrested, other photos flesh out the story of the protest. Parent organizer Rosie Simpson, whom we interviewed for our documentary, is shown here seeking permission to hold a prayer meeting at the mobile school site at 73rd and Lowe. For a great background on what was going on with the Willis Wagons and Englewood, read this story from the Chicago Reader.
Help us Finish the Film
Help Kartemquin Films tell the story of this protest, as well as the great school boycott that happened two months later when over 200,000 children boycotted school. Please consider donating to our project. We plan to release the film in early 2017.
ORIGINAL BLOG POST FROM FEBRUARY 15, 2016:
Back in 2014, we asked people for help identifying this footage from 1963. It turned out to be an important protest in Englewood in the summer of 1963 at a site where Chicago Public Schools was planning to build an entire school out of Willis Wagons (mobile units) at 73rd and Lowe, between a railroad track and an alley. It was organized by parent Rosie Simpson and considered one of the major precursors to the great boycott in October, when over 200,000 students boycotted school in Chicago.
Last week, Mother Jones published an article about Bernie Sanders’ participation in the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and activism at University of Chicago. They included this newspaper clipping (right) from the Chicago Tribune, which states that 21-year-old Bernard Sanders was arrested at this same Englewood protest, at 74th and Lowe. He was later fined $25 for resisting arrest. So we looked back at our footage of the protest shot by Jerry Temaner, one of Kartemquin’s co-founders, where we see a man with striking similarities to young Bernie Sanders being arrested. Is it Bernie Sanders? Help us to confirm it.
Here are some other photos we have found online of Bernie Sanders at the time. Three were taken by Danny Lyon, and the other is a photo from the 1964 yearbook of Gordon Quinn, the director of ’63 Boycott and graduate of University of Chicago.
(Note the bottom right photo. This photo from the University of Chicago archives was captioned as being of Bernie Sanders by photographer Danny Lyon, then changed to Bruce Rappaport, and subsequently back to Bernie Sanders recently.)
Regardless of whether or not it is Bernie Sanders, this footage of the Englewood protest will be used in the upcoming film ’63 Boycott to frame the context of times, along with testimony from Rosie Simpson and other activists. According to Simpson, this is what happened at the protest that day:
We had talked to a lot of the parents and we had gone to the Coordinating Council of Community Organizations asking them to support us if we had to protest and of course CORE (Congress on Racial Equality) was a part of that group and their members came out and by 10 o’clock that morning you had a lot of the CORE members out there laying down in front of the bulldozers. It rained most of the morning so we were muddy and they took us to the police station, they arrested 65 of us, and they kept us there and tried to ask us to give up our protest but we refused to so they put us in jail. The Presbyterian Church bailed us out that night. And so that evening when everyone got out of jail they had cleared all of the debris off the lot and the CORE members went out and decided that they were going to get all the garbage out of the community dumpsters, all kinds of garbage and put it back on the site, so they spent the night doing that. And for two weeks the construction trucks didn’t come anymore. When they did get to it two weeks later, they used those persons that were on public aid to clear the debris off the lot. And so we were glad to let them move it because by that time it was smelling so bad. The day of the March on Washington the Board of Education had a meeting and rescinded their recommendation on building that mobile classroom school. And interestingly enough, it was the first time that the Board of Education had rescinded any recommendation they had made.
’63 Boycott is an in-progress documentary about the 1963 boycott of Chicago Public Schools. We are still looking for participants to tag themselves in the photos in order to hear their stories and reflections about the boycott. The following is a short synopsis of the upcoming film:
Education protests in Chicago have been making national headlines for the past few years, but the roots of these protests can be traced back to the early 1960’s and the citywide school boycott that emptied half of Chicago’s schools. It was one of the largest Civil Rights demonstrations in the north. Despite the mandate of Brown vs. the Board of Education, Chicago Public Schools remained segregated and inadequately resourced. Overcrowded black schools sat blocks away from white schools with empty classrooms. To deal with the overflow but avoid integration, CPS Superintendent Benjamin Willis ordered the installment of mobile unit classrooms on the playgrounds and parking lots of these schools. Dubbed “Willis Wagons,” they outraged the community, leading to a massive boycott by 250,000 students. Other cities soon planned similar demonstrations. The ’63 Boycott film and web project aim to engage the public with the present day implications of this history.
For updates on the project and to see the finished film later this year, join our mailing list.