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.
- Remove the principal
- Remove the bullying campus policeman
- Hire qualified teachers
- Provide information on the academic standards at the school
- Create a student/faculty council to assess and resolve various school issues
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.
Within three days following the walk-out, all of the students’ demands were met.
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)
- Created study groups, political education and consciousness-raising classes
- Formed a student/parent/teacher alliance, which focused on decentralizing the school district to bring local control of educational resources to neighborhoods
- Developed an alliance with the League of Revolutionary Black Workers who were organizing in the automobile factories
- Published student newspapers
- Attended court cases to witness the workings of the criminal justice system
- Investigated to find proof of harassment of Black student leaders
- Organized multiple walk-outs and protests, demonstrating against:
- The Vietnam War
- The killing of Black students at Jackson State University
- The absence of Black student input into decision-making
- Created recreational opportunities in neighborhoods
Government/ Department Decision Makers Resources
- Detroit Public Schools (DPS) Board
- DPS Superintendent
- How did the young people’s demands connect with the powers of their officials?
- Who should be held accountable for quality public education?