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Black History Month: Battle for civil rights in Queens

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Photo gallery

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In 1963, the building of Rochdale Village in St. Albans sparks months of daily protests because contractors refuse to add minority workers to their crews. A favorite tactic is to sit in the street to block heavy equipment from driving onto the site.
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Protests disrupt the start of the 1964 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows. This sit-in is about fair-hiring at the fair, but it also keep the civil rights movement in the headlines.
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In 1959, busing brings primary-school students from Brooklyn to Glendale and Ridgewoood for the first time in New York. When some parents hold their children out of school, it makes headlines across the country. Slowly the kids return to school. At PS 77 — now IS 77 — on Seneca Avenue, racially integrated classes become the norm.
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The Queens College contingent attends the famed March on Washington in 1963, where Martin Luther King Jr. delivers his “I Have a Dream” speech.
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A 1963 poster from the NAACP in Jamaica and Congress of Racial Equality in St. Albans urges parents to keep their children out of school for a day to protest the segregation of city schools.
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A handbill for a benefit concert at Carnegie Hall for the Jamaica Student Help Fund. The late comedian Dick Gregory headlined the show, which also featured Tony Bennet a surprise performer.
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This picture is taken at the opening ceremonies of a new school at Parkway Village apartment complex in Briarwood. The complex was built especially for the employees of the United Nations — then based in Flushing Meadows — and their families because Asian and African diplomats had so much trouble finding rental housing in Queens.

Selma, Birmingham, and Little Rock — names of the most famous battlegrounds of the civil rights movement.

But not every fight for equality in the U.S. took place in the old Confederacy. Scores of people from Queens went south to support the fight for equal rights during the 1960s, but our borough had its fair share of battles, too.

Here in Queens, the fight centered around equal access to jobs and better schools. But in the years before the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, Queens saw some angry and prolonged battles — as these pictures show.

Little is said today about a one-day boycott on Feb. 3, 1964, when more than 450,000 students — nearly half of the student population — skipped school to protest the segregation of the city’s education system. Or the wide-spread — and sometimes violent — protests that led to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s appearance at the opening day of the 1964 World’s Fair.

From the archives, here is glimpse of what the civil right movement looked like in Queens.

Updated 3:25 pm, February 12, 2018
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Reader feedback

No diversity from Queens says:
Even back then schools were trying to mix children together. Today, that doesn't happen. When I went to school, the schools bused kids from jamaica into bayside schools. But today, the city REFUSES to send black, Hispanic and Indian students into a school that is predominantly chinese or korean. I think they should bring back the busing of these kids. They pushed other races on the white population. So why not push other races on the chinese and korean kids?
Feb. 13, 4:30 am

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