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Documentarians

Documentarians Gordon Quinn and Tracye A. Matthews discuss their film ’63 Boycott—a documentary about one of the largest (and possibly most-under-reported) civil rights actions in the 1960s. On October 22, 1963, more than 250,000 students boycotted the Chicago Public Schools to protest racial segregation. Many marched through the city along with their parents demanding to be allowed to enter under-enrolled white schools. Standard policy had been to erect trailers on playgrounds and parking lots of overcrowded black schools rather than let students enroll in nearby schools populated by white students. It was an extraordinary political moment that laid bare the racism of Chicago’s public school system and changed the lives of many of the students involved. By some quirk of fate, Gordon Quinn, who would go on to found Kartemquin Films, was a student at the University of Chicago in 1963 and took his camera out on the street to film the demonstration. That footage is at the heart of ’63 Boycott along with the participants’ reflections of that astounding time. Gordon Quinn and Tracye A. Matthews, who is also a historian, take us through the process of creating this documentary, from locating the people who were in the original footage to getting the history of the boycott right to finding the money to see the film through. (Spoiler alert: The National Endowment for the Arts has a role!)