The result of the 1968 walkouts
Student's rallying for justice(photo provided by Rafael Valencia)
A city youth welfare street worker pleads with students to go home after a walkout in 1968 (photo provided by Larry Graff)
Pilsen community gathering in protest against CPS(photo provided by Mary Gonzales)
Backstory and Context
The 1968 walkouts led by Latinx and African American students across the lower west side of Chicago. These walkouts were sparked by the injustices that took place in CPS funding all-white schools and overpopulating underfunded schools with minorities. It’s estimated that 35,000 students took part of in rallies, marching and protesting. The aftermath of the marches was that CPS invested 8 million dollars in building a school with the resources for children’s achievement. Thus Benito Juarez Community Academy was built.
The student outrage was manifesting itself for years of inequality between low-income, which were predominantly black and Latinx, were overcrowded in “Willis wagons” instead of the alternative which was to integrate minorities into all-white schools. The term ‘Willis wagons” refer to the mobile trailer that CPS's segregationist superintendent, Benjamin Willis, deemed tolerable for minorities3. The 1963 “Freedom Day” had over 200,000 students gather together to march for integration, & inclusion. However, the demand of the protestors wasn’t met as nothing was done to end school segregation. It’s an important protest since it influenced the leaders of the 1968 walkouts1.
While students were being to feel encouraged by this demonstration it didn’t prevent the board of education suppressing any sign of movement. However, it didn’t discourage the 35,000 students from walking on October 9, 1968 lead by Victor Adam, and Sharron Matthews that were arrested for their involvement in the walkout.3 The similarities between Latinx & African Americans demands are representation in school, higher education, and integration. The difference was that actions among the Pilsen community being heavily involved with the creation of Juarez Community Academy.
They began by gathering as many signatures lead by parents and activist including Inez Loredo, Carmen Ortiz, Lucy Gutierrez, Teresa Fraga, Rudy Lozano, and Mary Gonzales. Their petition was rejected by the board of education.2 A board member even went as far as to say “When are you people going to learn to speak English?” In June 1974, a year after the three day boycott at Froebel High School in Pilsen, a branch of Harrison High, the board of education granted 8.9 million dollar funding to build Juarez Community Academy.
Ramirez, Leonardo G., Yenelli Flores, and Jose Gamboa Chicano of 18th Street Narrative of a
Movements form Latino Chicago. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2011.1
How Pilsen's Founding Mothers Built a
High School.WTTW Chicago Public Media - Television and Interactive.
November 28, 2017. Accessed February 26, 2019.