In March 1961 the Tougaloo Nine became the first Mississippi students to stage a sit-in against segregation when they staged a demonstration at the main public library in Jackson. Just over a year earlier, on 1 February 1960, students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College had launched the sit-in movement with a protest at a Greensboro lunch counter. Students from black colleges across the South followed suit at a variety of public places—lunch counters, libraries, and department stores—that denied service to blacks.
At that time, the city of Jackson had an ordinance that prohibited blacks from using the main library and whites from using the George Washington Carver Library, designated for blacks. Noted civil rights leader Medgar Evers worked with the Tougaloo students preparing and training them for the protest. The nine were prepared to be beaten and to receive threats against their lives or family.
On 27 March 1961 nine members of the Jackson Youth Council of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People—Meredith Coleman Anding Jr., James Cleo Bradford, Alfred Lee Cook, Geraldine Edwards, Janice Jackson, Joseph Jackson Jr., Albert Earl Lassiter, Evelyn Pierce, and Ethel Sawyer—entered Jackson’s main library and began browsing through the card catalog and then sat down to read. When police arrived and asked the students to leave, they refused and were arrested on charges of breach of the peace. Medgar Evers gathered bail for their release, and Jack Harvey Young Sr., a civil rights lawyer, represented the students. They were ultimately convicted, fined one hundred dollars each, and given thirty days in jail, though that part of the sentence was suspended. However, their actions led to the integration of what is now the Jackson Metropolitan Library System, and they have been honored by the college and by the City of Jackson.
- Laura Hipp, Jackson Clarion-Ledger (13 October 2006)
- Jackson Clarion-Ledger (30 March 1961)
- Jackson State Times (27 March 1961)
- The Tougaloo Nine: Retrospection and Present Perception . . . Activism in a Multi-Cultural Society, 27 March 1961–27 March 1991 (anniversary program)
- Wayne A. Wiegand and Shirley Wiegand, The Desegregation of Public Libraries in the Jim Crow South: Civil Rights and Local Activism (2018)