Bernie Sanders protesting in 1963
Bernie Sanders protesting school segregation in 1963. This photo was recently discovered by the Chicago Reader (SUN-TIMES)

Despite efforts by some Clinton surrogates and media outlets to suggest otherwise, there is absolutely no question that Bernie Sanders was active in the civil rights movement and that this activism led to his arrest in 1963. But until now, not much was known about the particular injustice for which Sanders put his freedom and well-being on the line.

An article in the Chicago Reader, complete with a new photo of Sanders getting arrested, now tells that story.

With enrollment in the city’s schools soaring, Chicago Public Schools came up with various schemes to put children from black neighborhoods in makeshift classrooms. For example, they tried to convert an old warehouse, which had no fire sprinklers or playground, into an elementary school.

Another plan was to put children in so-called “Willis Wagons,” named after the superintendent who was in office at the time. Twenty-five of them were supposed to be placed half a mile from the closest public elementary school near some railroad tracks.

Together with allies like Sanders, the parents of the children protested and, in August of 1963, tried to block construction of the temporary school site. Dozens of the protesters were arrested (including Sanders on August 13), but they ultimately emerged victorious as the plan to build in that location were scrapped and the “Willis Wagons” were placed elsewhere.


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