Why Did 45% Of NYC Students Skip School In 1964?

New York City school boycott flier
Emeka Ochiagha
June 30, 2021

On February 3, 1964, 45% of New York City children didn’t go to school – 464,000 NYC children to be exact. Across the city, classrooms sat quiet and empty. 

Where did the children go?

They were protesting! The children of the city, and many of their parents, wanted an end to segregated schools. They wanted the opportunities afforded to white children to be the standard for ALL students! 

They spent the morning making picket signs, then they hit the streets to make their message clear.

But this was New York – surely they didn’t have segregation problems like the South? Well, it was Malcolm X who said it best: 

“Ultraliberal New York had more integration problems than Mississippi,” Malcolm X argued. “The North’s liberals have been for so long pointing accusing fingers at the South and getting away with it that they have fits when they are exposed as the world’s worst hypocrites.”

So there they were, more than half of all of New York’s school children, on the streets. Black children, Black parents, and allies, coming together to fight for the future of Black lives.

Power in numbers can radically amplify a message needing to be expressed, and when we come together as a collective it is hard for these systems to keep moving forward with “business as usual.” Our unity is our strength!

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