It started with four black college students in 1960 at a diner lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, refusing to leave even after they’d been denied service. It was uncomfortable, messy, and ended in arrest, but sparked hundreds of similar protests, with thousands of participants all across the country at public places everywhere.
It started with nine African-American high schoolers, three years earlier in Little Rock, Arkansas, who were barred by the police from entering their supposedly desegregated new school. They garnered national attention until the federal government sent in troops, forcing their high school to integrate, despite the local government’s stance on the matter.
It started with a 13-year-old and her comrades wearing armbands to protest the Vietnam War in December of 1965, ending in a landmark Supreme Court case taught in most seventh-grade civics classrooms today.
There are countless stories such as these throughout American and global history. Tales of young people, particularly students, taking the initiative to make change in their communities or protest wrong-doings in policies, whether they were up against their parents, their communities, or the United States government.
The valiant students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were not the first to march on Washington, to demand action from politicians, and they certainly won’t be the last.
Not every movement started by high schoolers ends in success. In fact, a number of them do not even garner much attention outside of their local areas. This could be for a variety of reasons, such as a lack of funding to push for more coverage, or the generally agreed upon idea that teenagers aren’t taken as seriously as adults are when it comes to making a political impact.
However, what is clear and true is that in most historical movements, there are many stories of students in high school, college, or even younger, becoming part of the call to action. The argument that “kids” don’t know what they’re doing when it comes to political change is deeply flawed. Simply because they aren’t old enough to vote doesn’t mean they don’t understand how the politics of their country works, or what it means to take a care of a citizen. When looking back on history, some of the most impactful stories of change are those that come from the young, because it shows that movements impact everyone, not just those old enough to cast a ballot, buy a house, or run for office.
One of the biggest reasons why students are able to make such big marks on history is partly because of their occupation as students. The desire for revolutions often come from situations and proximity to the issues. For example, workers during the Industrial Revolution advocated for labor unions and better labor laws because they were being deeply impacted by the lack of them. Therefore, students can often be the best proponents for change in schools because that is where they spend so much of their lives, where every change in the system or the laws creates ripple effects that influence them.
Whether it be the White Rose Society in Nazi Germany, Soweto students in South Africa during apartheid, or African-American students in the Civil Rights Movement, students around the world have always found a way to find their voice in uprisings, and make their marks on history.
Jordyn Dees // Co-Opinion Editor and Business Manager