Ralph Davis

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 Ralph Davis, a student who was interviewed in the original film shot by Gordon Quinn during the 1963 boycott.

00:16Copy video clip URL Introduction. Ralph Davis recalls his life as a high school student.

03:36Copy video clip URL Prevalence of racism at Waller High School as Davis remembers it.

05:30Copy video clip URL Davis tells of an incident where a school teacher called the police on him. Davis then describes his interests in high school, early work as a photographer and salesman, and eventually establishing his own printing business. Despite the lack of a nurturing educational environment in high school, Davis says, he found various mentors and other teachers who helped direct his life.

12:25Copy video clip URL Davis describes the inequality of access to adequate resources between the different racial and class makeup of Waller High School in the early 1960s.

15:16Copy video clip URL Davis shares an early memory when he first learned of the social divisions caused by racism and growing up in a relatively privileged neighborhood.

17:58Copy video clip URL Upon entering high school, Davis talks about how his upbringing made him different from other Black students.

20:36Copy video clip URL Davis’s memory of first learning about the 1963 boycott movement and the appeal of fighting for a more just educational system.

22:48Copy video clip URL Davis’s awareness of the Civil Rights movement during his high school years. Davis next describes the many different paths his life could have changed for the worse, including a police “sweep” of the neighborhood one day after school.

27:58Copy video clip URL Davis remembers the day of the 1963 boycott and being interviewed. He then recalls the extent of segregation that he witnessed as a student at Waller High School.

32:10Copy video clip URL On the day of the boycott, Davis remembers listening to heckling from white spectators but also the confidence of marching for a common cause. Davis also recalls the motivation he felt as a young man to join the march and protest policies such as the use of mobile trailers, commonly known as “Willis Wagons,” as classrooms for Black students.

35:31Copy video clip URL Interview pauses for camera and audio adjustment. Davis talks about his pets and hobby repairing computers and appliances.

39:10Copy video clip URL Interview resumes. Davis remembers what it felt like at the end of the boycott march. He then describes his aspirations as a student and in his career to gain a better quality of life. Davis also describes Chicago’s geographical terrain of poverty as he remembers it in the 1950s and 60s. He again shares advice given by his father about the pursuit of wealth and alienation from community. Though an influential teacher helped nurture Davis’s life, he remembers little positive community development during his high school years.

44:30Copy video clip URL The impact of the boycott on Davis’s life. Davis compares the 1963 education reform movement with the state of Chicago Public Schools under the Rahm Emanuel administration.

51:13Copy video clip URL Davis talks about his experience having classes in the mobile trailers, or Willis Wagons.

52:42Copy video clip URL Interview breaks, then resumes. Davis continues describing the educational environment in the mobile trailer classrooms and the lack of preparation for higher education during high school. He then talks about the influence of his father on his education path.

58:30Copy video clip URL Davis talks about living in Marquette Park at the time of the Neo-Nazi rally in Marquette Park on July 9, 1978. He continues to describe the impact of the 1963 boycott upon his life, including the relationships that he still maintains with the friends he marched with.

60:30Copy video clip URL Davis talks about his involvement with a local community block club. He relates the building of a social movement like the 1963 boycott to helping create a safe community environment. Davis continues discussing the importance of creating viable economic and job opportunities for youth, the lure of attaining material possessions and wealth, work ethic, and the importance of a nurturing education.

69:22Copy video clip URL Changes Davis has witnessed in the Old Town and Lincoln Park neighborhoods near Orleans and Wells Streets. Davis then talks about the surprise of viewing footage of his younger self being interviewed for the boycott.

72:08Copy video clip URL Background noise interrupts the interview. Davis continues to reflect on the successes and legacy of the boycott.

76:42Copy video clip URL Clarification questions about the mobile trailer environment.

81:33Copy video clip URL Return to discussing Davis’s reaction to seeing the footage of himself from 1963. Davis also mentions his surprise at meeting director Gordon Quinn, who shot the original footage from 1963 and interviewed Davis.

87:50Copy video clip URL Davis again compares the 1963 movement to the school closures and changes occurring under former mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration. He brings up various issues facing South Side communities, including targeting and harassment of Black communities by police. Drawing on his experience of being arrested while in high school, Davis questions why public schools and city administration continue to use police surveillance in schools and criminalize certain behaviors.

93:36Copy video clip URL Davis considers how racism and segregation still effect Black communities in the city of Chicago.

94:22Copy video clip URL List of jobs and educational experiences Davis has held since the 1963 boycott. He describes the various lessons he’s learned throughout his multifaceted career and the advice he gives to current students.

108:26Copy video clip URL Davis compares how he grew up with the circumstances of current day students and children in South Side communities. He considers the differences between those who organized the school walk-outs in 1963 with those in 2013.

118:24Copy video clip URL Davis talks about his family.

127:25Copy video clip URL Room tone.

128:18Copy video clip URL Davis gives a tour of his house.

 

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