1967 Philadelphia Student Demonstrations

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The 1967 Philadelphia Student Demonstration was a student strike and subsequent police riot which took place on November 17, 1967. The demonstration was part of a larger trend of racial tension and unrest in the United States during the 1960s.


The demonstration was led and planned, in part, by the student-run and organized Central Coordinating Committee (CCC). The CCC demanded better schools for all students in Philadelphia, especially African-Americans, and an end to tracking and the forced vocational education system which affected African-American students at that time.

The main in-high-school-local-team planning the demonstration and engaged as the prime leadership was the African American Student Society (AASS) out of Gratz HS and Gillespie Jr. HS, respectively. Germantown HS had a very active presentation and was a part of the AASS, which with student assistance, debated the difference between becoming a student union or a student association.

The Student Action Committee (SAC) was another organizing force behind the demonstrations. It was made up of high school students from various schools across Philadelphia. SAC met for at least three years before the demonstration, and published and distributed a student-run newsletter. SAC was active in a number of demonstrations in that period, such as the Philadelphia Post Office demonstration to demand African-Americans be hired on an equal basis, the Girard College integration marches, various marches connected to the Civil Rights Movement as well as a number of anti-war marches. Also, the draft and the need for counselors of the draft problems was held as a demand. Student Rights especially for published student materials, was a portion of the demands as well and the school board released a booklet on student rights in 1968. Members of SAC were also active with SNCC (The Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee) in Philadelphia.

CCC was in negotiations with public school superintendent Marc Shedd, who was known as a reformer, for at least a year before the demonstration. A number of demands had been presented to school administrators at meetings held on North Broad Street. The issue of ending vocational tracking and other situations drew supporters from all areas of the city of Philadelphia. Other demands included the removal of uniformed police officers from public schools, and the addition of African-American studies to the curriculum. The CCC also met with white students a number of times outside and inside Philadelphia to discuss joint demands for a student bill of rights.

Lack of action after those discussions with the school board prompted the November demonstration, and major steps forward were made in that the student demands were allowed by the superintendent of schools in the negotiations before police intervention and enforced thereafter.

Student strike and police response[edit]

On November 17, 1967, 3,500 students walked out of their classes and assembled in front of the Board of Education building at 21st and the Parkway.[1] The demonstrators included youth groups, Catholic high school students and public high school students.

The demonstrators were met by two busloads of police, and the encounter quickly turned violent. Twenty-two people were seriously injured and 57 were arrested. 35,000 students were prevented from attending the demonstration by action of school administrators and police activity.

The Commissioner of Police Frank Rizzo was on the scene, and witnesses quoted him as telling his officers to “Get their Black asses!” [1]


Reaction to the demonstration was split. Some criticized the brutal response of police officers against unarmed student, while others praised Rizzo’s action to suppress the demonstration.[1] The North City Congress, a social service organization, produced a report on November 29, 1967, entitled, “A Comparison of Police Action in Kensington Riots of 1966 and at the School Board Demonstration, November, 1967” noted the discrepancies in the actions of the Philadelphia Police Department, in the decision to attack the students at the Philadelphia school board demonstration as opposed to a riot which had occurred in a white community.

At least two court cases were filed against the Philadelphia Police Department for their role in the riot: Heard et al. v Rizzo et al. and Traylor et al. v. Rizzo et al. [2]

Frank Rizzo was exposed to direct and intense criticism for the actions of the police at that demonstration, but he was not credited with keeping the peace. He was later elected Mayor of Philadelphia but in an attrempt to gain a third term, the same forces as in the 17th Demonstration defeated his bid for office and a change in the City Charter to allow the third term.

Mark Shedd made some initial reforms in the aftermath of the riot, including granting student demands for draft-counseling services, drafting a students’ bill of rights, and granting them a voice in curriculum and disciplinary procedures. However, his reforms were not well-received, and he was eventually forced to resign.[3]

In 2005, African American History became a requirement for high school students in the School District of Philadelphia to graduate. In "Discipline, Contradiction, and the Mis-Education of Philadelphia: The African and African-American Curriculum in Philadelphia High Schools and the Challenge of Junior ROTC, 1967-2005", Wes Enzinna's History Honors Thesis pointed out the strategy of authorities in opposing the demonstration was to increase the ability of those authorities to move youth into the military.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Countryman M.J. "From protest to politics": Community control and black independent politics in Philadelphia, 1965-1984 (2006) Journal of Urban History, 32 (6), pp. 813–861 [4]
  • Slavery in Philadelphia, by Stephanie Wicks.[5]
  • Forer, L. "No One Will Lissen": How Our Legal System Brutalizes the Youthful Poor; The Universal Library/Grosset & Dunlap (1971)[6]


 7. {{http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=colored+negro+black}}
 8. http://www.cla.temple.edu/cenfad/SAandJROTC/JROTC.html