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.”


The commemoration begins January with the Alexandria Library’s Martin Luther King Jr. programs. On Sunday, February 9, at 2 p.m. author Nancy Silcox will join Beatley Central Library to discuss her book, “Samuel Wilbert Tucker: Story of the Civil Right Trailblazer and the 1939 Alexandria Library Sit-In.”