1939 Alexandria Library Sit-In

1939 Alexandria Library Sit-In Anniversary

America’s earliest known civil rights sit-in at a library—the 1939 sit-in on Alexandria’s own Queen Street—will be celebrated by Alexandria Library throughout 2014, as it hosts events honoring the 75th anniversary of the peaceful protest. One of the nation’s most little-known historical events involved leadership from native Alexandrian, attorney Samuel W. Tucker, and five young African American men who demonstrated an act of civil disobedience at the Barrett Branch after being denied library cards. The commemorative events at Alexandria Library locations will center around civil rights, human rights and the African American diaspora. Honoring the sit-in gives the institution the opportunity to shed light on a civil rights act that took place more than 15 years before the Civil Rights Movement.


"The boldness and orchestration of the sit-in was unparalleled by anything else at the time," said Anniversary co-chair, Alexandria civil rights legend Ferdinand Day, who played a pivotal role in Alexandria’s school integration during the 1960s. "Its place in history is not just an achievement for African Americans—it paved the way for providing free access of the Library to the entire public."


 

PRESS RELEASE

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Tina McPherson, Communications Officer/Administrative Services

Email: tmcpherson@alexandria.lib.va.us

 

75th Alexandria Library Sit-In of 1939 Anniversary Event

 

Alexandria, VA August 21, 2014 – In honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Alexandria Library Sit-In, the Alexandria Library commemorates this little known historic civil rights event at the Kate Waller Barrett Branch, where the sit-in originally took place. On August 21, 1939, five African American men individually entered the segregated building and requested library cards. When denied, each man calmly took a book off of a shelf to read. After two hours, library authorities had the men arrested for their act of “civil disobedience”.

 

“Due to the bravery of these men, 75 years later our library is a community hub that supports all individuals by providing equal access to books, technology, culture, and so much more”, says Director of Libraries, Rose T. Dawson. Dawson also happens to be Alexandria’s first African American Library Director.

 

The Alexandria Library was founded first as a subscription library in 1794 and became Alexandria’s public library in 1937. Two years later, Attorney Samuel Tucker organized and defended sit-in protesters, William (Buddy) Evans, Otto L. Tucker, Edward Gaddis, Morris Murray, and Clarence Strange. Though the men were charged with disorderly conduct, the city delayed the case and no ruling was ever issued.

 

The public is invited to join Alexandria Library in recognizing this significant local event. The program will feature keynote speakers Frank Smith, Ph.D., Director, African American Civil War Museum and Patricia Timmons-Goodson, North Carolina Supreme Court Justice (Ret.) and who is a newly appointed Commissioner, United States Commission on Civil Rights. Visitors can also enjoy music, children’s activities, food and refreshments, gift bags, and more on Thursday, August 21, 2014, from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. at the Kate Waller Barrett Branch Library, 717 Queen Street, Alexandria, Virginia, 22314!

 

Alexandria Library also welcomes the public to share their experiences during the event @AlexLibraryVA and #LibrarySitIn. 

 

For further information, please contact Tina McPherson at 703-746-1770.


SCHEDULE OF EVENTS

Thursday, August 21

Barrett Branch Library, 717 Queen Street


9:30 a.m.

Men of Victory
Shiloh Baptist Church
(Main Stage)


10:00 a.m.  

Patricia Timmons-Goodson, North Carolina Supreme Court Justice (Ret.) and newly appointed Commissioner, United States Commission on Civil RightsFrank Smith, Ph.D., Director, African American Civil War Museum

75th Anniversary Program Begins
Mayor William D. Euille
The Honorable Rob Krupika
Lift Every Voice & Sing Instrumental
Keynote Speakers:  Frank Smith, Ph.D., Director, African American Civil War Museum and Patricia Timmons-Goodson, North Carolina Supreme Court Justice (Ret.) and newly appointed Commissioner, United States Commission on Civil Rights.
(Main Stage)

**Food and Refreshments Available**


11:15 a.m.

Oasis Island Sounds
Peter Humphrey
(Lloyd House Courtyard)

Kwame Ansah-Brew
West African Stories, Games, & Music
(Barrett Branch, Children's Area)


12:00 p.m.

Doc Night and the Hipnotix
(Main Stage)