The Northern High School Walkout

Students Demand Quality Education


In 1966, Black juniors at Detroit’s Northern HIgh School were “advised” by counselors that they would not be able to enroll into college-prep classes because, “We aren’t sending Northern students to college.”

Some of the students met with the school principal, who called these three honor students the N-word and ordered them back to class.  Following this contentious meeting, the students drafted a list of demands directed to the school board.

Students’ Demands


The Board agreed to remove the police officer, and to discuss the other issues later.

The students told the superintendent of schools that termination of the principal was non-negotiable. To bring attention to their issues, a ‘secret’ walk-out was planned, of which only the students were aware.  At the scheduled time, more than 2,000 students streamed out of the school doors, and marched around the building, singing and chanting about going to college.  

Measurable Success

Within three days following the walk-out, all of the students’ demands were met.

Other accomplishments

The three student leaders hosted a Freedom School inside a nearby church with a WSU professor serving as principal; and area professors, lawyers and teachers teaching the classes.  Students from Eastern High School joined-in.

It didn’t stop with the walk-out –Following the summer of the 1967 rebellion there were numerous incidents of police brutality in the public schools, and 18 of the 22 Detroit high schools and 12 Junior High Schools which comprised the Black Student United Front (BSUF) demanded removal of police; institution of Black Studies classes; and hiring of Black teachers.

The Black Student United Front (BSUF)

Government/ Department Decision Makers Resources


  1. How did the young people’s demands connect with the powers of their officials?
  2. Who should be held accountable for quality public education?