Roosevelt High School | Los Angeles Conservancy
Photo by Adrian Scott Fine/L.A. Conservancy

Roosevelt High School

Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights was built in 1922 and opened one year later. The campus expanded over the decades to encompass approximately 22.7 acres, bounded by Mathews, Mott, Fourth, and Sixth Streets.

The original Auditorium and Classroom Building, popularly known as the R Building, received a seismic upgrade and PWA Moderne remodel following the 1933 Long Beach earthquake. For Roosevelt High alumni and Angelenos alike, the R Building remains an iconic representation of Roosevelt High and Boyle Heights. 

Roosevelt 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 Roosevelt High School, on America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list.

  

 

In March 1968, Roosevelt High School—along with Wilson, Lincoln, Belmont, and Garfield High Schools—was thrust into the national spotlight when thousands of Chicanx students and supporters staged a series of organized walkouts to demand educational equity, known as the East L.A. Chicano Student Walkouts (“Blowouts”).

Though school administrators locked the gates to prevent students from leaving, and LAPD squad cars surrounded the campus to intimidate the strikers, such actions would not prevent students from participating in the Walkouts.

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

The Roosevelt High campus was identified as eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places as a historic district for its role in the 1968 East L.A. Chicano Student Walkouts. Among those elligible buildings is the R Building, which is individually eligible for listing and landmark designation.

The R Building served as the primary setting for activities associated with the Walkouts on campus, including a sit-in that students staged on the lobby stairs and an assembly held by district officials in the auditorium.

The Walkouts are considered the first major protest against racial and educational inequality staged by Chicanxs in the U.S., and an important catalyst for the Chicano Civil Rights Movement.

Adding another layer of cultural significance to the R Building are several important interior murals, including “Harvey Milk Day of Service.” A Draft Environmental Impact Report calls the murals at the school “powerful expressions of the Roosevelt High School student social activism, culture, and community struggles."

With few sites representing Latinx heritage landmarked on the national, state, and local levels, protecting known Latinx cultural resources becomes of urgent concern. Preserving and rehabilitating Roosevelt High’s R Building would build on the efforts of the Latino Heritage Scholars, an initiative of the Hispanic Access Foundation, and others who work to protect, share, and celebrate significant sites related to Latinx heritage, including those associated with the Walkouts and Chicanx civil rights history.

Photo by Adrian Scott Fine/L.A. Conservancy

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