Skip to main content

A Latinx Resource Guide: Civil Rights Cases and Events in the United States

1968: East Los Angeles Walkouts

Discrepancies in the education of Anglo and Mexican-American students surfaced in Los Angeles during the 1950s and 1960s. Mexican-American students experienced a 60% dropout rate from high school, and those who did graduate averaged the reading level of an 8th grade Anglo student. In some schools, teachers prohibited students from speaking Spanish, and in others, school staff recommended Mexican-American students educational curriculum meant to help students with mental disabilities. These schools funneled many Mexican American students into vocational programs and discouraged from post-secondary studies. In response, students, teachers, parents, and activists began to organize.

The East Los Angeles Walkouts, also known as Blowouts, reflected a mass response to these discrepancies. From March 1-8, around 15,000 students walked out of their classroom in protest thanks to the organization of collective groups, who together formed the Educational Issues Coordinating Committee (EICC). This committee continued to voice student concerns even after the walkouts concluded, ultimately presenting a list of demands to the Los Angeles Board of Education, including recommendations for curriculum changes, bilingual education, and hiring of Mexican-American administrators.

The Board said they could not fulfill the demands due to a lack of funding. Shortly after EICC made their demands, police arrested 13 of the organizers on felony conspiracy charges. However, Sal Castro remained imprisoned even after police released 12 other organizers. This shifted the EICC goals from policy to legal representation, which eventually led to the group’s dissolution. Nonetheless, organizers continued to demonstrate in support of Castro, who police eventually released. The school later reinstated him.

The East Los Angeles Walkouts represented a call to action for civil rights and access to education for Latino youth in the city. Even with the rejection from the Board of Education, the event remains one of the largest student protests in United States history. In bringing together so many organizing groups, the demonstrations also highlighted an ability to mobilize across age and class lines. The walkouts also represented a strong group commitment to the Chicano identity, which continued to develop afterwards.

Timeline

March 1 - 8, 1968 Over 15,000 high school students walk out of seven different schools in East Los Angeles.
March 11, 1968 Educational Issues Coordinating Committee (EICC) forms to present the concerns to the LA Board of Education.
March 28, 1968 Community meeting occurs with the LA Board of Education and the EICC presents their 39 demands.
March 31, 1968 Thirteen walkout organizers are arrested, with twelve released soon after demonstrations outside of the Hall of Justice in Downtown Los Angeles but schoolteacher Sal Castro is kept longer.
June 2, 1968 Castro is released on bail, but is fired from his teaching position, with continued demonstrations demanding his job be reinstated.
October 2, 1968 After months of sit-ins at the office of the LA Board of Education, 35 demonstrators are arrested, and Castro's job is reinstated.

Resources

Staff in the Hispanic Reading Room can provide access to these books at the Library of Congress. If you cannot visit the Library in person, please contact us using Ask a Librarian for assistance. In many cases, you can also find these materials at your local library.

The following titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content are included when available.

The following external websites can be useful for expanding your research on the East Los Angeles Walkouts.