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Alexandria Celebrates Civil-Rights Milestone

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These men were escorted out of Barrett Library in Alexandria, Virginia during a 1939 civil rights sit-in.
Alexandria Black History Museum
These men were escorted out of Barrett Library in Alexandria, Virginia during a 1939 civil rights sit-in.

Long before Brown versus Board of Education or the Montgomery bus boycott or the lunch-counter sit-ins, the city of Alexandria was the scene of one of the earliest civil-rights protests in America.

The sit-in was organized by a 26-year-old African American lawyer named Samuel Tucker, who was inspired by a sit-in protest by autoworkers in Detroit fighting for labor rights. He decided to use the sit-in concept to protest segregation. The five protesters were arrested for disorderly conduct, although the charges were later dropped.

The city later built a separate library for blacks, although it was never as well stocked as the white library.

Audrey Davis is curator of the Alexandria Black History Museum. Tomorrow, on the 70th anniversary of the sit-in, students from Tucker Elementary School will conduct a re-enactment of the protest.

Michael Pope reports...


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