Built in 1885, demolished in 1978, Froebel was the oldest school in the district on June 5th, 1973, which is the day of the walkout that made the Channel 2 news. The Froebel uprising and the events surrounding it were mentioned briefly in a few dissertations (Danns, Alanis, Bishop) and a few books (Mujeres of 18th Street, Fernandez' Brown in the Windy City) and it was reported widely in the Trib, Sun Times, Daily News and Defender, and in several Spanish language newspapers that covered the incidents that day. (I've been trying for years to find Spanish Language newspapers that were known to have covered this event, to no avail. I'll share the list in another post.)
What I heard from witnesses was much more harrowing and unbelievable than the "official" accounts. In a 2017 interview with Sandra Mendez, she recalls that a couple Mexicanos were beaten so severely by police that they could not stand up without falling down, and at least one person had to go back to Mexico because they were unable to work. Others talked of police herding people into an empty lot and then attacking.
I met a guy on the street one day, when I was standing on 21st Street with a group of people on a tour of places that were gone (above) and I told them about the little-known uprising at Froebel School. While I was talking, this guy told me he had been there and could give me an eyewitness account. (But first he seemed perplexed that anyone was interested, so it took a little convincing.) A month or so later, I called him and we talked. He told me he had lived on 21st, that he was Puerto Rican, and that he had moved to the suburbs, but that he still had people on 21st. I realized that he hadn't told me his full name, and when I asked him, he hung up on me. But before he hung up, he told me a wild story (which was later corroborated by others) and what he told me changed the way I looked at this photo. In 1973, he was an 8th grade student at St. Ann's (on Leavitt by 18th Place) and on June 5th, 1973, his school allowed students at his school to march in solidarity with Froebel students if they had their parent's permission, which he did. He said he arrived on 21st street and he heard a police officer had been hit with a brick that had been thrown off of the roof. (The police officer had been walking up the fire escape, probably thinking he could nab the students who were on the roof, but the students were throwing bricks and furniture they had been collecting, as if they expected a siege. That scene was also captured by Channel 2 news.) He saw the officer sitting in a squad car where he sat for 2 hours in air conditioning, awaiting the arrival of the press photographer. This this photo that ran in newspapers all over the country.
The Tribune described a hostage situation that resulted in the serious injury of a police officer, and a community that was protesting conditions at a dilapidated school. But The Defender quoted a 9th grader who said she was marching to save Froebel because they did not want to have to go to school with Blacks. This is reportedly the protest that led to the construction of Benito Juarez High School, and I had questions: If Juarez granted by Daley Sr. on his deathbed, what made him concede after years of pressure? Was Juarez re=enforcing segregation by keeping Mexicans and Blacks apart? Was Juarez really a victory for the community, who wanted a school that would enforce the law and give Spanish speaking students access to an education?