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Freedom Day: 50 Years Ago Today, 250,000 Chicago Students Marched Against Segregation In Schools
October 22, 2013
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Here's an important moment in the history of civil rights that "hasn't been much written about," according to NewsOne. 50 years ago today, on October 22, 1963, a march against segregation in Chicago all but emptied out schools on the city's South and West sides. Many of the marchers were students — a reported 250,000 of them were absent from school that day.

Organized by civil rights leaders, the Freedom Day march was inspired by demonstrations that had taken place elsewhere in the U.S. earlier that year, including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's (SCLC) Birmingham Campaign and Martin Luther King, Jr's March on Washington.

"I think every child should have an equal opportunity to get a good education, and I think that we should have as much freedom as any other citizen of the United States," one adult Freedom Day marcher says in the video above.

Among the goals of Freedom Day was to win an audience with then-school Superintendent Ben Willis, who critics charged was purposely keeping black children at overcrowded schools in the inner city, the New York Times reported. Although the march didn't lead to a meeting between Willis and the protesters, the school boycott did inspire similar protests against segregation.

Eventually, "schools lifted the archaic ban, giving students opportunities not afforded to them earlier," NewsOne writes. Willis remained Superintendent until 1966, when he left the post, four months before the end of his term.

In terms of its historical significance, the march in Chicago proved at the time that "segregation is not just a Southern problem," according to the Chicago History Museum, and signaled that "the movement had come north."


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