How 1968 East L.A. Student Walkouts Ignited the Chicano Movement

In early March 1968, as many as 22,000 American students, mostly Mexicans, emerged from their classrooms at seven Los Angeles schools, attracting national attention. The unprecedented event shone a light on educational inequality, galvanized Chicano’s civil rights movement and inspired a new generation of activists, artists, educators and elected officials.

The schools involved served Mexican barrios in the city’s Eastside neighborhoods, or East Los Angeles, where Chicanos or Mexican Americans made up about 75% (130,000) of the student population. Students protested the vast educational inequalities they faced: dilapidated and understaffed schools, overworked and undertrained teachers. The average class size was about 40 and the student-to-advisor ratio was 4,000 to 1, according to United Way of Los Angeles. Students have also complained of being channeled into vocational and domestic training, instead of academic courses that would help them get into college.

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