Lincoln High School | Los Angeles Conservancy
Ethel Percy Andrus Theatre at Lincoln High School. Photo by Rosalind Sagara/L.A. Conservancy

Lincoln High School

Designed by Albert C. Martin in the PWA Moderne style, Abraham Lincoln High School was completed in 1937 and intended to resemble a college campus, following the wishes of then-principal Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus. The campus expanded over time, including additions and landscaping by Edward H. Fickett. The gym and athletic facilities are located on an adjacent hilltop property where the original 1913 high school stood.

Today, the campus encompasses both properties and is connected by a pedestrian bridge. Reflecting the period of construction, many of the buildings feature New Deal-era artwork created by Manuel de la Torre, Conjecta Troncale, and Maurice Levine. In 1990, Roberto “Tito” Delgado created a mural on the primary façade of the Ethel Percy Andrus Auditorium.

Lincoln High School 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.

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) plans to modernize aging school facilities. In May 2018, the district approved a plan to modernize the historic Roosevelt High School. Unfortunately, the proposed upgrades include tearing down historically and culturally significant buildings. Lincoln High is next on LAUSD’s list for modernization.

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

Located on a hilltop in Lincoln Heights, Abraham Lincoln High School opened in 1913. The high school was established on the former site of the Avenue 21 intermediate school. Deemed unsafe after the 1933 Long Beach earthquake, the school was reconstructed in 1937 on an adjacent property on North Broadway bounded by Lincoln Park Avenue, North Thomas Avenue, North Altura, and Alta Street, where it sits today.

Among Lincoln High’s most notable faculty members is Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus, the first female principal to lead a major urban high school in California. During her time as Lincoln High's principal from 1916-1944, she lowered dropout rates, set high academic standards, and established innovative programs to develop students’ character and skills. She pioneered vocational education and opened up the campus to the community. She established the Opportunity School for Adults at Lincoln High, an evening program designed to assist immigrant parents of her pupils, which expanded to a full-time night school where adults could earn a high school diploma.

After twenty-eight years at Lincoln High, Dr. Andrus retired to care for her ailing mother. In 1947 she established the National Retired Teachers Association (NTRA) and later AARP, giving older people a collective voice to advocate for pension reform, affordable health care, financial security, better housing, and an end to age discrimination.

Another prominent faculty member and instrumental leader of the Walkouts is teacher Sal Castro, who arrived at Lincoln High in 1964. He soon observed the need for bilingual education, a more culturally sensitive academic curriculum, and access to college preparatory coursework for Mexican-American students, whom he felt were left behind by the school district.

By January 1968, Castro began encouraging his students to demand improvements in the quality of education in LAUSD’s Eastside schools. In addition to mentoring students, he organized community members to support the students’ efforts. According to the Los Angeles Times, he was the only teacher to publicly participate and back students’ complaints to news media and school district officials. Castro was among the "East L.A. 13" who were arrested, jailed, and later exonerated on felony conspiracy charges for “disturbing the peace” during the Walkouts.

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

On March 6, 1968, thousands of students at Lincoln High School walked out of their classrooms at 10:00 a.m. as part of a planned protest to demand educational equity in Eastside high schools. Brown Berets entered the main administration and classroom building and prompted the students, “Walk out! Walk out!” At the time, the Walkouts were considered the largest organized protest demanding educational equality by the Mexican-American community in the U.S.

Castro recalled, “As the bell rang, out they went, out into the street. With their heads held high, with dignity. It was beautiful to be a Chicano that day.”

One of the Lincoln High student organizers, Paula Crisostomo, said, “I was very scared and nervous. I didn’t know what was going to happen. But when I saw the other students walking out, I began to feel bold and empowered.”

“I was very scared and nervous. I didn’t know what was going to happen. But when I saw the other students walking out, I began to feel bold and empowered.” -Paula Crisostomo, Lincoln High alumna

In a few minutes, the entire school was empty, with the exception of most of the teachers and all of the administrators, who remained on campus. Students gathered on the sidewalk at the front entrance to the school. Some climbed on top of parked cars. They marched carrying signs and shouting slogans. 

The protesters walked about three-quarters of a mile through Lincoln Park and the neighborhood. When they arrived in Hazard Park at around noon, they found East L.A. Superintendents Stuart Stengel and Herbert Cadwell. Moctezuma Esparza requested a meeting with the school board and asked Stengel to walk back to Lincoln High with the students so that they would not get penalized. 

Some of the Eastside high school leaders, including those from Lincoln High, also met with Senator Robert Kennedy at LAX, where he publicly endorsed their actions.

In the next few days, Castro and Lincoln student organizers put together a list of demands to present to the school board, participated in another student-led walkout two days later, and attended additional community rallies. Some of the Eastside high school leaders, including those from Lincoln High, also met with Senator Robert Kennedy at LAX, where he publicly endorsed their actions.

On March 26, the Board of the LAUSD met in a packed Lincoln High Auditorium to discuss the Eastside high school students’ demands with students, parents, and community members. At this meeting, students representing each of the 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 by Don Barrett on Flickr

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