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'63 Boycott

On October 22, 1963, more than 250,000 students boycotted the Chicago Public Schools to protest racial segregation. Many marched through the city calling for the resignation of School Superintendent Benjamin Willis, who placed trailers, dubbed ‘Willis Wagons,’ on playgrounds and parking lots of overcrowded black schools rather than let them enroll in nearby white schools. Blending unseen 16mm footage of the march shot by Kartemquin founder Gordon Quinn with the participants’ reflections today, ’63 Boycott connects the forgotten story of one of the largest northern civil rights demonstrations to contemporary issues around race, education, school closings, and youth activism.

Academy Awards® Shortlist for Best Documentary Short Subject

Now available: '63 Boycott Six Lesson Curriculum for Grades 6-12

"Piercingly intimate portrayals of the protestors’ experiences." - Elaine Chen, South Side Weekly

“With footage shot a half-century earlier as a college student, director Gordon Quinn planned the boycott documentary for its 50th year. He missed the anniversary date. But with co-producers Rachel Dickson and Tracye A. Matthews, he reimagined it as a 30-minute short doc, and produced one packed full of facts.” - Robin Washington, The Chicago Sun-Times.

“On the one hand, a half hour is probably the right length for a documentary about a one-day event...On the other hand, I would have been happy to have had more of ‘63 BOYCOTT...While the 1963 boycott did not achieve its specific demands, it is clear from the recollections of multiple participants that it sparked something, including a desire to achieve personal educational goals, a long-term interest in community activism and school improvement, and an awareness of injustices that weren’t just happening in another part of the country.” - Mark Walsh, Education Week.

“A film every Chicagoan should see.” - Scott Pfeiffer and Jacob Oller,

“‘63 BOYCOTT is a timely look backward as the U.S. public education system stands vulnerably in the crosshairs of public officials who seem determined to destroy it.” - Marilyn Ferdinand,


Main credits

Quinn, Gordon (film director)
Quinn, Gordon (photographer)
Dickson, Rachel (film producer)
Dickson, Rachel (photographer)
Matthews, Trayce A. (film producer)

Other credits

Edited by Liz Kaar; music by Tom Sivak; camera, Gordon Quinn, Rachel Dickson.


Race,Segregation,Education,Civil Rights,Protest,Activism,Archival; "63 Boycott"; Kartemquin Films; Chicago; 1960s; black history;