ACTIVISM

 

POWER OF PERSEVERANCE

 
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THE UNITED MOVEMENT FOR PROGRESS

In June 1967, William "Bouie" Haden, a Homewood-Brushton activist, launched the United Movement for Progress. The United Movement was an alliance of neighborhood activists who demanded better treatment for the black community.


During this time, African Americans were rarely hired as anything besides janitors and general laborers, and the United Movement for Progress demanded managerial jobs at neighborhood grocery stores throughout the Homewood-Brushton area. 


When the grocery stores refused, Haden and the United Movement spearheaded a boycott of the Frankstown Avenue Giant Eagle. Giant Eagle hired their first black manager the next month, and other grocery stores soon followed.


“The movement of protests in Pittsburgh started here, in Homewood. Because the Greater Pittsburgh Improvement League was approached to organize and attack against the A&P on Homewood Avenue...The protest movement started here on Homewood Avenue.” -John Brewer


The Black Power movement emerged at the center of Pittsburgh’s African American freedom struggle during the late 1960s and 1970s. Below, John Brewer, WHS class of 1962, talks about the segregation throughout Pittsburgh and Homewood.

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STRIKING FOR A BETTER EDUCATION

African Americans continued their struggle to break down barriers in public education. Activist students, teachers, and civil rights organizations protested racial segregation and discrimination in the education of black children and the employment of black educators. In August 1965, nearly 150 people picked the Pittsburgh Board of Education building in Oakland, calling for an end to de facto segregation and overcrowding at Westinghouse High School in Homewood.

 

As the school board continued to drag its feet, picketing sporadically continued throughout 1966 and 1967. This culminated with WHS students organizing a strike. In 1968, Westinghouse students were upset with their principal, the lack of African American teachers, the quality of the lunchroom, and the lack of African American studies offered to Pittsburgh Public School students. Below, Richard Morris, WHS class of 1969, talks about the student walk outs.

 

The student strike would soon spread to other schools in the city.  Their efforts paid off, and the school board agreed to hear their demands.

 

Bouie Haden and his group staged a mock trial to determine responsibility for the criminal neglect of black children’s education. African Americans not only demanded desegregation of the schools, but transformation of the school’s curriculum, culture, and learning environment as well.

 

Despite the discrimination, black students continued to excel and earn college scholarships. In 1964, 41 graduating seniors from Westinghouse High School earned college scholarships, partly funded by the Buhl Foundation, and many continued to overcome challenges in the late 1960s.

 

“When I graduated in 67, 12 of my classmates in my class went to Ivy League schools, and I’m sure these schools thought those students were white. But it was nothing back in the day for students to have straight A’s.”-Leslie Parr, WHS 1967