How A Simple Defiance Turned A Trip To The Library Into Jail Time

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September 9, 2019

On March 27, 1961, nine students from Tougaloo College in Jackson, Mississippi climbed the stairs of the Jackson Municipal Public Library on a mission. 

Settling down with books to study, they waited. 

Joseph Jackson, Jr. quietly approached the circulation desk to check out a book on philosophy. 

All check out service, however, was denied. After all, the librarian sternly explained, the Jackson Municipal Library could only serve white patrons - by law. 

Indeed Joseph and his colleagues DID know that this branch was a segregated establishment, but that didn’t matter.

As the students continued their “read-in,” hoping to draw attention to their pleas for integration, police officers were called to the scene.

The Tougaloo Nine protestors were handcuffed and spent two suspenseful nights in jail, while more students across multiple campuses anxiously took on their cause. 

The nine were charged with disturbing the peace, fined $100 each, and set free. 

Fortunately, their protest did have a lasting effect on their efforts to gain equal access to knowledge. 

Waves of protests grew to include spaces beyond bus systems and lunch counters that were so popular throughout the Civil Rights Movement. Their courageous act mattered!

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