1965 October 22

225,000 Students Boycott Chicago Schools to Protest De Facto Segregation

 

A quarter of a million public school students on this day boycotted their classes to protest de facto racial segregation in the Chicago schools. The boycott was part of an ongoing struggle over the schools. In 1965, a Chicago civil rights coalition petitioned the Department of Health, Education and Welfare to withhold federal funds from Chicago schools (the recently passed 1965 Education Act included vast federal funds for local school districts). Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (July 2, 1964), meanwhile, allowed the federal government to withhold federal funds to grantees and contractors that engaged in racial discrimination. The combination of the two new laws gave the federal government a powerful tool to address de facto school segregation in northern communities. HEW initially withheld the funds, but an angry President Lyndon Johnson arranged a “compromise,” which restored the funds yet did not ensure an end to de facto segregation.

The lesson of the affair was that no presidential administration was willing to use the powerful tool of Title VI to address school segregation in communities outside the South. De facto school segregation, particularly in the North, was closely tied to housing discrimination. White neighborhood residents feared loss of property values and a decline in the quality of their neighborhood schools if neighborhoods were racially integrated. No president, Democrat or Republican, was willing to challenge the white community on this issue.

Learn more about civil rights activism in Chicago in the 1960s: http://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu/content/chicago-activists-challenge-segregation-chicago-freedom-movement-usa-1965-1967

Follow a timeline of the Chicago Freedom Movement:

http://sites.middlebury.edu/chicagofreedommovement/timeline/

And more about the history of civil rights in Chicago: http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/293.html

Learn more about the history of school desegregation: James T. Patterson, Brown v. Board of Education: A Civil Rights Milestone and its Troubled Legacy (2001)

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