EAST L.A. HIGH SCHOOL WALKOUTS IN MARCH OF 1968

BACKGROUND

On March 1, 1968, hundreds of students marched out of Woodrow Wilson Senior High School in response to the worsening conditions and treatments of Latino students in the school system [7]. Little did East Los Angeles know, this was the start to a much bigger protest.

Garfield High School principal appealing to students to return to classes, March 7th 1968. Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library [7]

 It was known by all the students in Los Angeles that Latinos in the southwest United States had much worse school conditions compared to their white counterparts . Dropout rates were approaching 60% in some of the schools in this area [7]. Segregation and discrimination of these students was at an all-time high. Many of these high schools that wanted to make a change had close to 75% of the school’s population being Latino [8]. These students felt that their culture and identity were not being represented, as Mexican American history was not taught in the school systems. Also, speaking in Spanish resulted in beatings [8]. The amenities were not nearly as nice as other high schools in the area. For example, because one of the predominately Latino high schools did not have an inside kitchen, there were many incidences that students were forced to eat outside in the pouring rain [8]. Finally, most Latino students were tracked to go into labor-intensive jobs, not even given the option of a four-year degree [9].

Therefore, throughout 1967, many students, under the advisement of Salvador Castro, the only teacher to participate publicly, came together to make a plan of action that would change these conditions in their school systems [6].(click here for other minority civil rights movements) They decided the most detrimental hit would be to have students in the high schools to participate in a walkout. During this time, the schools, as well as teachers, were paid based on how many students were in attendance [8]. Therefore, walking out before attendance was taken would cause the most detriment to the school systems financially.

Castro talks to students at Lincoln High in 1968. (Los Angeles Times) [6]

As stated before, these walkouts officially started on March 1, 1968. Following Woodrow Wilson, the high school students of Garfield, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Belmont, Venice, and Jefferson followed suit over the course of the next week [7]. (Click here for an interactive map of the locations of the walkouts) In total, 22,000 students stormed out of their classes in support of changing their school conditions [6]. Of these, thirteen people, called the Eastside Thirteen, faced sixty-six years in prison on the charges of treason [9]. This included Salvador Castro, the teacher who helped plan the walkouts. Finally, after ten days, their voices were heard. The school board called an emergency meeting and discussed the students’ needs. The students brought a list of thirty-six demands (click here) that they wanted to see implemented; only two of these were enacted. The two agreed upon were to have more bilingual faculty and smaller class sizes [6].

Sheriff’s deputies form a line near Garfield High on March 5. (Joe Kennedy / Los Angeles Times) [6]

IMPACTS

These walkouts resulted in quick outcomes. Within a few years, college enrollment skyrocketed from 2.5 to 25 percent, the University of Los Angeles’s Mexican American enrollment shot up from 100 to 1900 students, and dropout rates decreased to well under thirty percent in all of the high schools [6]. However, these walkouts were not just a success for education, but the Chicano Movement as a whole. These protests were the first public demonstration in the Movement, and thus proved to be a critical component of it [7]. Also, since these protests were such a success, East Los Angeles became a site for Vietnam War and Immigration policy protests by high school students [6].

Peter Rodriguez, Wilson High School student, at the microphone of a school board meeting. [2]

However, 1968 was not the end to impacts that the East L.A. Walkouts had for the school system of Los Angeles. In 2010, Belmont Middle School was officially renamed Salvador B. Castro Middle School to honor the man who led the students to fight for what they believed in [6]. This shows that the Movement did not stop with the end of the Walkouts in early March of 1968.

 

MODERN DAY

Unlike fifty years ago, it is almost normal now to see college and high school students protesting for change. This past March (of 2018), students in Los Angeles, planned their own “walkouts” to protest for gun control after multiple school shootings plagued the United States. An article (click here) was written that calls these walkouts the Modern East L.A. walkouts, with them being exactly fifty years after the initial ones [1]. Similarly, during this past March, walkouts across the entire country occurred as students stood for those who died in the Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School shooting in Parkland, Florida. Also, with the election of Donald Trump, students everywhere have marched for a change in Trump’s Administration’s anti-immigration policies [2]. Even locally, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill college students have called for the removal of the Silent Sam Monument, the renaming of certain buildings on campus, and marched and mourned for those who have died in school shootings.

 

Students at Eagle Rock High School in Northeast Los Angeles take part in the walkout for gun control Richard Vogel/AP [8]

Los Angeles high school students walk in to Cal State LA to commemorate East L.A. Walkouts. [4]

BIBLIOGRAPHY

[1] Arango, Tim, and Matt Stevens. “California Today: The East L.A. Walkouts, 50 Years Later.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 6 Mar. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/03/06/us/california-today-east-la-student-walkouts.html.

[2] Arellano, Gustavo. “The East LA Blowouts of 1968, Mapped.” Curbed Los Angeles, 1 Mar. 2018, la.curbed.com/maps/east-los-angeles-walkouts-history.

[3] California History, thisweekincaliforniahistory.com/california-history-timeline-march-3-to-march-10/.

[4] Csulosangeles, director. 50th Anniversary: East L.A. WalkoutsYouTube, YouTube, 5 Mar. 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?v=iR-BrTA0_PU.

[5] “East Los Angeles Students Walkout for Educational Reform (East L.A. Blowouts), 1968.” Global Nonviolent Action Database, nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu/content/east-los-angeles-students-walkout-educational-reform-east-la-blowouts-1968.

[6] Sahagun, Louis. “East L.A., 1968: ‘Walkout!’ The Day High School Students Helped Ignite the Chicano Power Movement.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 1 Mar. 2018, www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-1968-east-la-walkouts-20180301-htmlstory.html.

[7] Simpson, Kelly. “East L.A. Blowouts: Walking Out for Justice in the Classrooms.” KCET, 4 Apr. 2018, www.kcet.org/shows/departures/east-la-blowouts-walking-out-for-justice-in-the-classrooms.

[8] Teresa Mathew @_teamat Feed Teresa Mathew, and CityLab. “Walkout: In 1960s L.A., Mexican-American High School Students Took Charge.” CityLab, 15 Mar. 2018, www.citylab.com/equity/2018/03/walkout-in-1968-east-la-students-led-a-movement/555596/.

[9] Valadez, Micaela. “What Is the Significance of the 1968 East L.A. Walkouts?” Daily History, dailyhistory.org/What_is_the_significance_of_the_1968_East_L.A._Walkouts%3F.

 

Posted by: Lauren-Taylor Humphreys

2 thoughts on “EAST L.A. HIGH SCHOOL WALKOUTS IN MARCH OF 1968”

  1. Hey Lauren,
    Your page on the 1968 East L.A. High School Walkouts was very successful in not only teaching readers about this specific memory, but in informing them about a particular mode of non-violent resistance that was employed during this time period: walkouts. The subheadings were a positive addition, as they helped to organize the page and the flow of information nicely. I created a live link between your page and mine, which is about Cesar Chavez and his 1968 fast to draw attention to the poor working conditions of migrant farm workers and promote non violent modes of resistance. I did so because the East L.A. Walkouts are a great example of people joining in the movement of practicing non-violence to achieve significant change in society during this time period. I believe that the Latino youth in your site of memory may have drawn inspiration from cultural leaders like Chavez, as he preached the importance of practicing various peaceful modes of resistance in making a clear and powerful point to everyone watching. I think your site of memory is also a wonderful, early example of youth stepping onto a socio-political stage in order to achieve a form of civil rights that they were not being granted. Memories like these transcend decades and serve as examples to future youth, as we have seen similar walkouts being employed by students recently in the fight for gun reform.

  2. I think your last paragraph is very strong in its declaration that this was a critical protest. The protests in 2018 show how this memory is processual and universal as people have taken this idea of walkouts and attributed it to their own causes 50 years later in attempts to make change.The layout of your post is very pleasing due to the images and videos embedded within.

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