’63 Boycott raw: Fannie Rushing Interview

Camera original footage shot for the documentary '63 Boycott from Kartemquin Films. ’63 Boycott is a thirty-minute documentary and web project highlighting the stories of participants in the 1963 Chicago Public School (CPS) Boycott (also known as Freedom Day). One of the largest Civil Rights demonstrations in the city’s history, on October 22, 1963, a coalition of civil rights groups, local activists, and 250,000 students staged a mass boycott and demonstration against the Chicago Board of Education to protest racial segregation and inadequate resources for Black students. This interview features Fannie Rushing, a former organizer and activist with the Chicago-area Friends of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC, pronounced "Snick").

00:00Copy video clip URL Camera and audio set-up.

00:44Copy video clip URL Fannie Rushing and director Gordon Quinn and interviewer Tracye Matthews prepare for the interview. They discuss their respective vision difficulties.

02:00Copy video clip URL Introduction. Rushing mentions archived papers she recently received from Larry Landry’s widow, Delores Landry, which shows the organizational chart used by the Chicago area Friends of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) during the 1963 boycott.

02:48Copy video clip URL Footage interrupts and then resumes. Camera re-establishes frame.  As a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Rushing explains her connection to the 1963 boycott through establishing a Friends of SNCC recognized student group.

04:10Copy video clip URL Rushing explains the Friends of SNCC organization and their relationship with the Southern Civil Rights movement.

05:24Copy video clip URL Rushing provides historical background to the Friends of SNCC chapter in Chicago, organized by a connection between James Forman and Sylvia Fischer and her husband. Rushing first became involved in a picket of Woolworth’s, conducted in union with the Southern Sit-In movement.

06:48Copy video clip URL Relationship between the Chicago area Friends of SNCC and the Southern chapters of the SNCC. Rushing compares the Chicago chapter to other northern chapters such as in New York and their differing modes of engagement with the South. Rushing explains the difficulty of fundraising and organizing for the South while African-Americans in Chicago also faced significant racial and economic disparities and injustices. The importance of linking the Southern Civil Rights movement to the struggles of African-Americans in the North and the turn toward organizing for education justice and desegregation in Chicago by the Friends of SNCC.

09:44Copy video clip URL SNCC’s experimentation with Freedom Schools in the south before the 1963 boycott.

10:14Copy video clip URL Impact of the Montgomery Bus Boycott on Rushing. Rushing recalls the inspiration she felt at the time, especially by political demonstrations such as the Greensboro sit-in conducted by the “Greensboro Four,” which helped catalyze the Civil Rights movement across the South. She mentions Cleve Seller’s book The River of No Return as a faithful representation of the movement.

12:18Copy video clip URL Communications between the SNCC offices through Wide Area Telephone Service (WATS) to the SNCC headquarters in Atlanta. Rushing describes the influence of television, media, and other technology that facilitated a sense of excitement and immediacy to the events surrounding the Civil Rights movement at the time.

13:32Copy video clip URL Rushing talks about the influence of the Chicago Defender newspaper, the images of Emmet Till, and Chicago’s inflammatory environment for race relations. The power of witnessing the disparities between predominately African American and predominately white schools.

15:22Copy video clip URL Interview stops for setting readjustment.

16:57Copy video clip URL Interview resumes. Continuing the link between organizing for education reform in Chicago with the Civil Rights movement and education activism in the South. Rushing explains that Friends of SNCC began to shift their focus to issues happening in Chicago and organizing Freedom Schools in the city, thus connecting the movement in the South with freedom movements in the North.

20:12Copy video clip URL The Friends of SNCC’s involvement in helping organize the 1963 school boycott. Rushing depicts the extraordinary effort involved in mobilizing 250,000 students to boycott school for one day, as well as its massive decentralized form of leadership, where no one person could be given the credit for its success.

22:33Copy video clip URL Rushing connects the boycott’s history to current day issues in Chicago Public Schools and the resources this history might offer those hoping to work for change in the educational system.

23:48Copy video clip URL Rushing’s role in organizing the boycott with Friends of SNCC.

25:45Copy video clip URL Rushing’s description of SNCC as an organization and its perception during the 1960s. Her awareness of Larry Landry’s relationship with the Coordinating Council of Community Organizations (CCCO). Reasons behind the push for a second boycott directed at the resignation of then-superintendent of CPS Benjamin Willis. The resistance community organizers faced from the Chicago city government and Mayor Richard Daley. Outcome and impact of the second boycott.

32:22Copy video clip URL Leadership of the Chicago area Friends of SNCC and the impact of the organization’s grassroots organizing skills during the boycott movement, according to Rushing. The SNCC’s base organizing strategy and the difficulties of adapting this strategy in alignment with the organizational outlook of the CCCO.

37:03Copy video clip URL Rushing’s memory of how the idea of a school boycott arose. While Rushing cites the dispersed process of proposing the boycott, she credits Larry Landry and SNCC as one of the originators of the action.

38:12Copy video clip URL Community opposition and uncertainty of the boycott as the means of action. Rushing explains the demonstrations that preceded the boycott and why the organization of a school boycott became necessary. She also describes the boycott’s effective strategy of economically targeting the Board of Education, saying, “But those 250,000 kids out of school and those dollars that disappeared that day: that clicked.”

41:20Copy video clip URL Leverage gained by communities organizing with the boycotts. Goals and demands of the boycott’s organizers. Rushing portrays the disparities between majority white schools and neighborhoods versus majority black schools and neighborhoods at the time.

43:58Copy video clip URL The double standard of “empty classrooms” comparing school conditions of 1963 with those under Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration. The connections between racism in the North and South. Rushing then takes a system-wide view of the issues facing equal access to education in Chicago schools in the early 1960s. 

49:25Copy video clip URL Inclusion of issues like hunger and poverty in the movement for quality education and basic rights.

51:34Copy video clip URL Audio battery dies. Interview resets. Rushing continues discussing the importance of parent organizers in the boycott movement. Rushing’s impression of how parents and community groups perceived the SNCC’s organizing efforts and the SNCC’s youthful core of organizers. Rushing’s life following the 1963 boycott as she began to work full-time for the SNCC, where she encountered brought support and engagement with the Civil Rights movement.

55:58Copy video clip URL Reception of the boycott’s organizing efforts among the general public and the movement to promote nonviolent demonstrations.

59:25Copy video clip URL Setting adjustment.

60:36Copy video clip URL Day of the boycott. Rushing remembers her involvement and the ordered demonstration conducted by the students who boycotted school. 

65:00Copy video clip URL Freedom Schools and their purpose in the 1963 boycott. Rushing explains the intention of organizing the boycott both as a learning opportunity for students as well as a fight for quality education in CPS.

67:48Copy video clip URL Phone ringing interrupts the interview.

67:57Copy video clip URL Interview resumes. Freedom Schools as an initiative of SNCC and the ideas behind creating these schools, which began in the South as a way to politically empower marginalized people at a time when literacy tests were required to register to vote. According to Rushing, the purpose was “To let young people talk about the way that they could take control of their own lives by questioning the reality that they were living in, and therefore determine their own reality.”

71:38Copy video clip URL Interview pauses again.

72:44Copy video clip URL Interview resumes. Rushing’s lessons from organizing movements for social change with SNCC. She describes the necessity of organizing a dedicated base from the grassroots.

76:18Copy video clip URL Political gains of the 1963 boycott. Divisions in the Chicago education reform movement. The political maneuvering of Mayor Richard Daley and Chicago administration officials to accommodate portions of the movement while attacking others. Rushing describes her perspective of the negative portrayal of Larry Landry in the press and community, as well as the coercive tactics used by the city administration to discourage community involvement.

83:08Copy video clip URL Fate of the CCCO after the 1963 boycott and leading up to the second boycott. Rushing’s perspective of the differing voices and organizations that formed the CCCO and the reasons for their ability to work together or cause tension.

84:57Copy video clip URL Audio interference briefly interrupts the interview. Rushing then continues discussing Al Raby’s role in organizing the 1963 boycott and his work afterward. Audio again interrupts the interview.

86:40Copy video clip URL Interview resets. Organizational rifts in the CCCO. Influence of growing national attention surrounding issues of race and inequality. Perseverance of the movement for education reform to stage a second boycott and demand Benjamin Willis’ resignation. Spread of the movement for nonviolence on a national and local scale as the Civil Rights movement began to grow.

89:22Copy video clip URL Change of the guard in leadership of the school reform movement leading up to the second boycott and beyond. Willis’ resignation. New influence of the Black community in decision-making of Willis’ replacement as superintendent.

92:20Copy video clip URL Rushing’s opinion of the long-term impact of the boycott movement in Chicago.

93:54Copy video clip URL Connection to education issues in Chicago under the Rahm Emanuel administration.

94:50Copy video clip URL Rushing’s view of the legacy of Black community organizing in Chicago. The history of Black organizing that presumably led to Martin Luther King Jr.’s visit to Chicago. Rushing then describes her new role organizing during the second boycott with the SNCC. The impact of the boycott on Rushing’s life afterward and her outlook on racism in the United States and people’s lives around the world.

100:50Copy video clip URL Legacy of the Freedom Schools and SNCC’s establishment of a Freedom Center in Chicago. Rushing’s life after leaving SNCC and eventual involvement with the African Liberation Movement. Influence of Stokely Carmichael’s Ready for Revolution and Rushing’s new project of putting together oral histories of organizing movements in Chicago.

107:45Copy video clip URL Final lessons from the school boycott movement for the current-day struggle for education reform and equal access to quality resources.

110:00Copy video clip URL Room tone.

 

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