Negro and Puerto Rican school children stayed home from their public schools in New York City on Monday (3 February) in a massive protest against alleged segregation in the city's schools.
Pickets outside PS 289 and children entering, boycott headquarters, Freedom School addressed by Dick Gregory (SOF)
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Background: Negro and Puerto Rican school children stayed home from their public schools in New York City on Monday (3 February) in a massive protest against alleged segregation in the city's schools.
The Board of Education announced that about 350,000 children participated in the boycott. This is about 80 percent of the Negroes and Puerto Ricans who are enrolled in New York City's public school system. The total enrolment is about one million.
Some schools were nearly empty, with only about five percent of the normal enrolment in attendance. Others showed virtually no absenteeism at all. All of the 850 schools in the nation's largest school system remained open and most teachers reported for work. The demonstration was entirely orderly.
About 2700 pickets turned up outside 300 schools. This was far short of the 8000 pickets the demonstration leaders had expected.
The demonstrators charge that the city's schools are segregated because some have enrolments which are almost entirely Negro. The Board of Education replies that the city's schools serve their immediate neighbourhoods -- and if those neighbourhoods are largely Negro, so are the school enrolments. The Board proposed a plan for ending the racial imbalance in the schools last week. It was turned down by civil rights leaders who said it did not go far enough.
One school especially hard hit by the boycott was Public School 289 in New York's Borough of Brooklyn. Its enrolment is almost entirely Negro and this morning (3 February) there were only a handful of children there. A dozen pickets, as to other schools, paraded outside.
The citywide committee of civil rights leaders who organized the boycott set up special "Freedom Schools" in churches throughout the city, designed to keep the boycotting students off the streets. The principal freedom school was held at boycott headquarters, the Siloam Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn. Dick Gregory, a Negro comedian, told one of the classes there about his experiences in the anti-segregation movement in the southern U.S. He told the children not to be discouraged. "The Federal Constitution is on your side," he said. Many children in the boycott did not even attend the freedom schools, but simply took the day off.