Garfield High School | Los Angeles Conservancy
Student Walkouts at Garfield High School. Photo by LAPL.

Garfield High School

Garfield High School opened its doors to students in September 1925. Located in unincorporated East Los Angeles, the campus was created to serve the new residential communities established in the early 1920s on formerly agricultural land east of the L.A. boundary. 

The campus is bordered by E. Sixth and Escuela Streets on the south and north, and by Woods and Fraser Avenues on the east and west.

Garfield High garnered national attention for the role it, along with four other Los Angeles high schools, played in the East L.A. Chicano Student Walkouts (Blowouts) of March 1968.

In 2018, the National Trust for Historic Preservation included the five Walkout schools, including Garfield High School, on America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list.

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) purchased seventeen-and-a-half acres of land along E. Sixth Street in July 1924 and construction began in March 1925. LAUSD appointed architect George M. Lindsay to design the original Romanesque Revival campus buildings, one of which survives today with a modernized exterior. 

The campus has undergone several changes through the decades, including the exterior modernization of the original administration building and adjacent classroom building (300 Building) in the1950s and 60s, the addition of  Modern-style classroom buildings, and a new library building with a multistory arcade influenced by New Formalism in the 1970s. 

Today, the campus retains a few buildings from 1967 and 1968, as well as several newer buildings.

The campus received national attention several times throughout its history. In 1944, the Army-Navy Screen Magazine profiled Garfield High students who worked at the Lockheed and Douglas aircraft plants under a special program for the war effort during World War II. The 1988 film Stand and Deliver is based on the true story of Garfield High math instructor Jaime Escalante, who helped his students overcome adversity and excel in Advanced Placement Calculus. The events of the East L.A. Walkouts were memorialized in the 2006 HBO film Walkout directed by Edward James Olmos and filmed at Garfield High.

An arson fire on May 20, 2007 destroyed the Auditorium, which was demolished in July 2010 along with the connected Administration Building. These were replaced by a new classroom building and new auditorium named in honor of Jaime Escalante, which opened in 2014.

1968 East L.A. Chicano Student Walkouts (Blowouts) and Garfield High School

On March 5, 1968, hundreds of students filed out of classrooms at Garfield High and gathered in front of the school’s entrance where they shouted “Viva la revolución!” and “Education, not eradication!” As students made their way to the campus gates and surrounding sidewalks, sheriff's deputies in riot gear arrived to order them back to class, though most refused. The principal of Garfield High, Reginald Murphy, held a special outdoor assembly on campus appealing to students to return to classes, though students continued the boycott.

Garfield High was one of the five schools with predominately Mexican-American students (including Roosevelt, Lincoln, Wilson, and Belmont Highs) in which students walked out of classes as part of an organized protest to draw attention to educational inequality. Known as the East L.A. Chicano Student Walkouts (Blowouts), the Walkouts are widely considered the first major protest against racism and educational deficiencies staged by Mexican Americans in the United States. Garfield High was one of the original four schools to form a Blowout Committee during the fall of 1967 and participated in the early activities of the movement.

A student at Garfield High at the time of the Walkouts, Joseph Rodriguez, recalled, “Until that day, it never crossed my mind that Garfield High was... lagging behind public schools in wealthier white neighborhoods. All that changed after the blowouts.” In fact, several of the high schools east of downtown L.A. had some of the worst dropout rates in the nation. Garfield High had a dropout rate of 57% in 1968.

The walkouts at Garfield High continued on each day through the end of the week. On March 11, 1968, student body representatives from the original five Walkout schools plus Jefferson, Hamilton, and Marshall High Schools spoke at a special meeting before the LAUSD Board of Education and presented a list of thirty-six demands. 

On March 26, 1968, the LAUSD Board of Education met in the packed auditorium at Lincoln High to discuss the students’ demands with students, parents, and community members. At this meeting, students representing each of the Eastside high schools transferred their leadership to the designated adult leaders of the Educational Issues Coordinating Committee (EICC), who would continue the effort to improve the conditions and quality of education for Chicanx students in the Eastside.

Photo courtesy

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