February 25th marks the 50th anniversary of "Freedom Day II," a Chicago school boycott that was part of a protest movement eventually leading to the early "retirement" of CPS Superintendent Benjamin Willis, who was perceived as hostile to the interests of the black community. The demonstration followed the original massive school boycott in October 1963 that is the heart of our transmedia documentary ’63 Boycott.
’63 Boycott is a film and website that tells the story of the 1963 Chicago Public School Boycott, when more than 200,000 people protested the segregationist policies of Superintendent Benjamin Willis on October 22, 1963. Freedom Day II, which took place on February 25th, 1964, saw 175,000 students skip school, another highly successful demonstration confirming that the community had a voice in school politics and that Willis’ days were numbered.
We will be creating social media and blog posts related to Freedom Day II this month. We are also interviewing two organizers of the 1963 Boycott for our film – Dr. Timuel D. Black, legendary Civil Rights and education activist, and Rosie Simpson, the parent organizer who coined the term “Willis Wagons” for the trailer classrooms that were set up by CPS on the playgrounds and parking lots of overcrowded African American schools to help maintain segregation.
This month, we were invited to screen our work-in-progress cut of the film for students at Northeastern University, DePaul and Young Chicago Authors. The ’63Boycott.com website received over 30,000 visitors last year, and the blog now features more new content than ever, such as this short story about the Boycott submitted to us by a woman who participated as a student protestor.
Please note, the film is not yet finished and we are still looking for Boycott participants to interview. If you or somebody you know participated in the 1963 Boycott, go to www.63boycott.com and look through our gallery of photographs from October 22, 1963 to see if you recognize anyone.
With a noted tradition of nurturing emerging talent and acting as a leading voice for independent media, Kartemquin is building on more than 50 years of history as Chicago’s documentary powerhouse.
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