Sylvia Fischer

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 Sylvia Fischer, a former elementary schoolteacher in the Hyde Park/Kenwood neighborhood and organizer with the Chicago-area Friends of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

00:00Copy video clip URL Interviewer Tracye Matthews prepares Sylvia Fischer for the interview format.

00:32Copy video clip URL Introductory questions.

01:15Copy video clip URL Fischer’s life in the early 1960s. She describes her initial involvement with the Chicago area Friends of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

03:39Copy video clip URL Fischer describes teaching at Shoesmith Elementary School in the Hyde Park/Kenwood Park neighborhood and the demographics of the school in the 1960s. Fischer talks about the differences in resources between predominately Black and predominately white schools in Chicago.

05:59Copy video clip URL Fischer’s initial role in organizing for the 1963 school boycott. As co-chair of the Chicago Area Friends of the SNCC with Larry Landry, Fischer became involved in organizing community leaders.

08:50Copy video clip URL Interview resets for adjustments.

09:40Copy video clip URL Interview resumes. Fischer’s position as an advisor for the boycott while working as a teacher.

11:25Copy video clip URL Fischer’s investment in the boycott’s goals and the movement for desegregation and equal access to educational resources. She describes her perception of Chicago’s history of segregation as a teacher.

12:59Copy video clip URL Fischer describes the use of Willis Wagons and then Chicago Public Schools Superintendent Benjamin Willis’s policy of using mobile trailers as overflow classrooms.

13:56Copy video clip URL Fischer’s memory of the day of the 1963 boycott. Freedom schools, set up with the help of local of community faith leaders, housed and taught the students who did not go to school or march in the demonstration downtown on the day of the boycott. Fischer describes visiting a freedom school in Hyde Park.

16:36Copy video clip URL Fischer remembers the mood and style of protest of those marching in downtown Chicago during the boycott, thwarting perceived expectations of rioting and violence. Fischer’s memory of the scene downtown.

19:30Copy video clip URL Fischer’s perspective on the boycott’s turnout, objectives, and effectiveness for holding public officials accountable for change. Fischer claims the boycott was one of the largest demonstrations in Chicago’s history.

21:20Copy video clip URL Pause in the interview.

23:00Copy video clip URL Fischer says that one of the boycott’s other objectives was to remove superintendent Willis from office. She explains her perspective on the second boycott in 1966.

24:50Copy video clip URL Fischer’s career and continued involvement with Friends of SNCC after the 1963 boycott.

26:26Copy video clip URL The effects of organizing and planning the boycott on Fischer’s life.

28:12Copy video clip URL Larry Landry’s influence on Fischer’s leadership.

29:00Copy video clip URL Fischer describes the beginnings of the Ankobia Project, an archive of material and oral histories related to the Civil Rights movement.

30:15Copy video clip URL Interview break.

30:38Copy video clip URL Interview resumes.

31:10Copy video clip URL Effect of the boycott on the school where Fischer taught.

32:00Copy video clip URL Current day issues in the Chicago Public Schools. Fischer’s perspective on the influence of societal growth and decline in the United States and its impact on the educational system.

35:11Copy video clip URL Contemporary issues of segregation in Chicago neighborhoods and public schools.

35:50Copy video clip URL Matthews and Director Gordon Quinn consider the multiple different frames by which to ask Fischer about the connections between contemporary education activism and the 1963 boycott.

37:55Copy video clip URL Interview break.

37:58Copy video clip URL Interview resumes. Fischer explains the negative public expectations and racist perceptions of the 1963 boycott at the time. Fischer tells how her husband, who served on the Coordinating Committee of Community Organizations (CCCO), received a call the night before the boycott and was asked to call off the demonstration “for fear of the mayhem that would take place downtown.” Fischer again explains how the demonstrators defied these negative expectations.

40:03Copy video clip URL Fischer’s outlook on her career as a teacher.

43:52Copy video clip URL Fischer’s perspective on what school children need in order to thrive in the classroom. She also talks about the effects of standardized testing in the contemporary school system.

47:42Copy video clip URL Audio disruption.

47:54Copy video clip URL Interview resumes. Continued perspective on current day testing policies. Relative comparisons of class sizes in the 1960s.

53:55Copy video clip URL Matthews asks Fischer about a school walk-out over standardized testing.

56:50Copy video clip URL Lessons from the 1963 boycott.

58:32Copy video clip URL Fischer is asked about Shoesmith being put on the preliminary list of schools to be closed by Chicago in 2013. Fischer describes her witness to marginalization of economically disadvantaged communities and communities of color on the South Side of Chicago.

63:49Copy video clip URL Room tone.

64:38Copy video clip URL B-roll footage.

 

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