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New York School Boycott Peaceful

Feb. 3, 1964 - A peaceful one-day boycott emptied hundreds of classrooms in Negro and Puerto Rican sections of New York City today and kept many pupils at home elsewhere in the city. The organized demonstration, which occurred on the opening day of the new school semester, was planned and executed by civil rights groups dissatisfied with the Board of Education’s plan for racial integration. Absenteeism totaled 464,362 among pupils and 3,537 among teachers. Police Commissioner Michael J. Murphy had 2,000 men assigned to schools in Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens, and had 6,000 others ready for any emergency. There was none.

In a joint statement, James Donovan, President of the Board of Education, and School Superintendent Calvin Gross deplored the boycott and called for cooperation in putting through their integration plan, which they called “good.” Earlier, Donovan, had termed the boycott a “fizzle.” He attributed much of the absenteeism to an organized campaign of “intimidation.”

The Rev. Milton Galamison, pastor of the Siloam Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn and chairman of the Citywide Committee for School Integration, told 4,000 cheering backers in a rally outside school board headquarters which climaxed the demonstration: “By your absence from school and your demonstration here today, you delivered a mandate to the people in the Board of Education. Perhaps we may have to call on you again. You turned out today to cast your vote for better education.”

Bayard Rustin, chief organizer of the boycott, said he was jubilant. Whether the teachers who took part in the boycott would be penalized by loss of a day’s pay or other punitive action was not immediately announced by the school board.


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