From the March 6, 1964 edition of the Gazette by Virginia Mazer:

All through that long day that began with the 6:30 boat and ended with the 7:15, one had the persistent feeling of being carried along shoulder-high on the arms of the young. Essentially, the freedom movement belongs to the young. We older ones have accommodated ourselves to the present, compromised, made our separate peace. The present is our future; for the young the future is still to be. It is in their hands, not ours. It is they who will give it its shape, and they know it. It is this knowledge of theirs, this single-mindedness, this hope that carries the rest of us along.

There were seventeen of us who went to Roxbury last Wednesday from the Vineyard, three mothers, two fathers, and twelve young people. Last December, the Roxbury Freedom Choir had come to the Island to sing at the rally that highlighted the visit to the Williamston, N. C., group.

Now, they had invited us to visit them and attend their Freedom School, where classes would be held the day of the “stay-out” called for the Boston area by civil rights leaders. We went because we wanted to learn for ourselves the reasons for the stay-out, to see what went on in a Freedom School, and also, we wanted to give our Roxbury friends our moral support, whatever it was worth.

Entering Roxbury (as is true of the suburbs of many American cities) one is confronted with the backwash of our industrial civilization. The heavy hand of civic unconcern is everywhere.

Saint Cyprian’s Episcopal Church rises above the squalor around it. A vaguely Romanesque Church, it serves a parish, predominantly Negro. The building itself has no particular distinction except its look of being scrupulously cared for and used. It is a church one feels, that belongs to the living rather than to the past. This was our destination. We knew we had arrived when we saw the crowds of young people, black and white, lining the stone steps and overflowing onto the sidewalk.

A current of excitement ran through our young. They begged to be let out at once, spilling out of the cars and joining the group in front of the church. We marveled at their lack of shyness or reserve. The freedom movement, it seems, asks for no credentials, one’s presence is enough. When we had parked the cars and joined them we found some of them already reunited with Roxbury friends.

In the church auditorium we Vineyarders were seated together. Over the loudspeaker the school principal, the Rev. Charles Glenn was introducing the visitors. First Cambridge, then Newton, Wellesley, Wayland, Marblehead. “And over there to the right we have a group of seventeen people from the Island of Martha’s Vineyard.” As usual the word island worked its magic. We had come by boat, braved (in their minds) the hazards of wind and water. We were a breed apart. A shout went up, applause. We were pleased, believing for the moment the legend of ourselves as sturdy seafaring folk.

With enviable dispatch, the three hundred or more students were divided into groups of seventeen, each with its own leader or teacher. The groups then withdrew to separate rooms and “school” began, the Island young people breaking up and merging with the larger group.

An hour before dismissal we all came together again in the church auditorium. One student from each group summed up for all of us the feelings of the group. A Roxbury high school boy had this to say: “It’s too late to desegregate us by the time we get to high school. By then we have lost our confidence, we feel we’re not as good as white students. Even if our marks are good enough to get us into one of the special high schools like Boston Tech or Boston English, we’re afraid to go.”

This from a girl student in the Buckingham School in Cambridge: “I came to the Freedom School today because I am interested in the movement that the Negroes are marking toward a better life for themselves and for Americans in general. My day has just begun. Tomorrow I will have a different opinion of what I see and learn today. Next week it will be different again. But each change will be for the better, each change will strengthen me in knowledge which is more precious to mankind than reading and writing — the knowledge of society and how to live with different people, new people.”

Later that afternoon, when classes were over, we drove along the Common. School children from the whole Boston area were gathering to march to City Hall for singing and speeches. Because of the crowd our cars moved at a snail’s pace and through open windows our young cheered the marchers along. Jubilantly a marcher held a newspaper up for us to read: “Twenty thousand stay out in school boycott.” As the sun went down the shadows turned to purple, matching the purple of the lead glass windows on Beacon street. Somebody pointed out the windows but the young would not be distracted from the moment: Look at that sign. That’s a neat one.”

Compiled by Hilary Wallcox