Grey haired, elegant and stately, a Black research scientist recounts how she made sure to wear her best pearl necklace that day. It was called Freedom Day, a day when she joined more than 200,000 fellow students of the Chicago Public Schools to protest the city’s segregationist policies. This teen girl already knew what it was to be judged poorly. A school counselor (sic) had banished her to vocational school, dismissing the young girl’s dream of being a scientific researcher out of hand. This teen girl would don her best necklace as armor. She would make sure that she did her best to look the part of a student who deserved the best.
And, you might ask, which students didn’t deserve the best education?
That was exactly the question being posed by Black students of Chicago and the community organizers who created this 1963 Freedom Day March. The protest was sparked by the persistent racist decisions by the city’s school superintendent that gave White students the best, and Black students not much at all. Schools in the ghetto were overcrowded and underfunded. The solution being offered to the Black communities by the powers that be, was to build flimsy mobile schools in vacant lots near train tracks.
About half of this half hour+ film weaves interviews of participants—whom we see in photos then and live interviews now,—explaining what was going down leading to Freedom Day. You too might feel, as this reviewer did, the excitement in the air as Freedom Day arrived. Archival black and white footage of the march shows students of all ages and manners, making the long march to the city’s central area called the loop. It began with an almost party feel. The tone turned more somber as the marchers arrived downtown, where white onlookers gazed down on them from windows above.
High Caliber Documentary in the OVID.tv Collection
In a relatively faster clip, we learn the post-history of this day. You too may wince with pain—especially if you are a fellow Chicagoan-- when you take in the film’s message that we are living in the continuing story of this tale of two cities. The film feels tight- every moment loaded with perspective that enables us to see how then became our now. Perhaps this short film especially packs punch because it makes our history more human scale.
Any student of history will likely admire this short documentary as a tale well told. Anyone interested in the stories of the civil rights movement should especially short list this film. If you are adverse to exploring racism, 63 BOYCOTT will not be for you.
Director: Gordon Quinn
For more information, and to view the film, visit the OVID.tv webpage for 63 BOYCOTT.
Images courtesy of 63 BOYCOTT