The sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality.
-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
A year after the death of the beloved Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the same city where he held protest for equality, injustice was still brewing. But the people of Memphis held steadfast to the dream of Dr. King and decided that they would not be moved. They would stand up for equality and the dream would live on.
In 1969 in the city of Memphis, TN over half the students in the school system were black, so why was the school board all white?
Even after the NAACP got involved the school board that represented a majority of black students remained all white. The black community’s dismay with the lack of black representation on the school board led to what came to be known as Black Mondays. The participating students and teachers knew that the boycotts were risky and some were torn about a potential outcome, but they were adamant on seeing a change. The school boycott campaign began in the fall of 1969 and continued for approximately 5 Mondays. The first Black Monday took place October 13, 1969 and over sixty thousand black students participated in the boycott by being absent from school that day. Each Monday that followed black students and teachers boycotted by not showing up to teach or attend school. The current mayor of Memphis, Dr. Willie Herenton, who was then a principal, was the only principal to ally with the Black Mondays protest and walk out of school.
Black Mondays led to other boycotts including those of black employees of St. Francis Hospital, black city workers staying home from work and a boycott of downtown businesses. The Black Monday Boycotts drew much attention and finally in November of 1969 the boycotts were called to an end by a coalition of black organizations when the Board of Education filed a lawsuit against some parties involved citing contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The lawsuit was dropped, but the point of Black Mondays had been made. The school system receives state and federal funding based on student attendance and with over half the students in the system participating in Black Monday each Monday the impact was hard hitting.
Black Mondays resulted in the addition of two black non-voting members to the Memphis School board and indeed paved the way for future black school board members. Currently the Memphis City School Board of Commissioners is majority African American. (Memphis City Schools Board of Commissioners)
Link from The Commercial Appeal Black Mondays Signaled a New Day written by Wendi C. Thomas
February 28, 2009 at 2pm The Benjamin Hooks Central Library in Memphis, TN will be hosting a discussion panel to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Black Monday. The panel will include Maxine Smith, Dr. Vasco Smith and Dr. Miriam DeCosta-Willis, all civil rights activists who will share their memories of the historical boycotts.