During the 1950s college educated and professional Chicanos, as part of the Education Committee of the Council of Mexican Americans Affairs, challenged the school system through proper channels, including P.T.A. participation and meetings with school officials and legislators. In 1967 Julian Nava was elected as the first Latino to serve on the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) board of education. Despite these efforts, however, Mexican American students continued to trail behind in the classroom.
The 1960s gave hope for social justice within the Chicano community, as civil rights leaders across the nation demanded change and equal opportunities for people of color. Leaders like Ceasar Chavez, Reiss Lopez Tijerina and Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales were shaking up injustices in the labor system, presenting Chicano youth in Los Angeles with role models to emulate. Meanwhile, a developing iconography of cultural pride and beauty was empowering Chicanos with art and murals throughout East Los Angeles communities.
To combat the failed efforts toward progress in education, young Chicano activists looked to the changing political climate for a more direct approach for action. From March 1 to March 8 1968, approximately 15,000 students walked out of classes from Woodrow Wilson, Garfield, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Belmont, Venice and Jefferson High Schools, all demanding an equal, qualitative, and culturally relevant education. The protesters were blocked by administrators barring doors to the outside, and helmeted police officers either jailed or escorted students to their principals. Two student beatings were reported during the March 6 walkout at Roosevelt.