Tougaloo Nine

The Jackson Municipal Library Sign on the Mississippi Freedom Trail

The Tougaloo Nine were a group of African-American students at Tougaloo College, who participated in civil disobedience by staging sit-ins of segregated public institutions in Mississippi in 1961.[1]

HistoryEdit

The Civil Rights Movement began slowly in the South, especially in Mississippi. Before 1955, it was mostly isolated protests against the obstruction of voting rights for black Americans. Groups formed during this time period include the Mississippi Progressive Voters' League and the Regional Council of Negro Leadership. In the 1960s, more youths began to participate in the Civil Rights Movement. [2]

Mississippi was considered by civil rights organizer Medgar Evers to be "too racist and violent" for lunch counter sit-ins so the public library was chosen because it was supported by both Black and White taxpayers. The students, trained in nonviolent resistance[3], were NAACP Youth Council members led by Joseph Jackson Jr.

Read-inEdit

On March 27, 1961, they visited Jackson’s library for black residents, George Washington Carver, and requested books they knew were not there[4]. They then entered the main Jackson Public Library for white residents and staged a "read in."[5][6] The nine students began to search for source materials for class assignments, and sat down in the library and began to read. At this time, the library staff called the police.[2] They were told "There's a colored library on Mill Street.... You are welcome there." When they refused to leave, they were arrested and charged with breach of the peace for failing to leave when ordered to do so.[7] That following day, on March 28th, the nine students were released on one-thousand dollar bond.[8]

ProtestsEdit

The day after the Read-In, fifty students from Jackson State College picketed the arrest of the Tougaloo Nine prior to their release. Police utilized clubs and dogs against the students in order to disband the protest. The next day, March 29th, over one hundred black community members congregated outside of the courthouse to show support for the Nine.[8] As protesters applauded the arrival of the Tougaloo Nine at the courthouse, policemen set on the crowd with dogs and nightsticks resulting in the beating of NAACP representative Medgar Evers along with several women and children, two men being bitten by dogs, and an 81-year-old man suffering a broken arm when police beat him with a nightstick[9]. Reverend S. Leon Whitney, a pastor of Farish Street Baptist Church, was among those bitten by police dogs.[8]Medgar Evers later reflected "This act on the part of the police officials brought on greater unity in the Negro community and projected the NAACP in a position of being the accepted spokesman."[10] A Jackson reporter summarized the event by saying, "A quiet community has been invaded by rabble-rousers stirring up hate between the races, and following are the…publicity media feeding an integrated North the choicest morsels from the Mississippi carcass.…The Negro who has so long held the guiding and helping hand of the white may lose that hand as he climbs the back of his benefactor and teacher to shout into halls where he is not welcome.[11]"

AftermathEdit

The students appeared in court on March 29th, and were not allowed to see their attorneys Jack Young and R. Jess Brown before their hearing. They were fined $100 each and given a thirty-day suspended sentence and year's probation[12][6] on condition that they “participate in no further demonstrations.[13]"

In protest of the sentencing and the brutality of police towards bystanders, a meeting was held at a local Masonic Temple, at which Julie Wright encouraged other black community members to participate in a "No Buying Campaign". This campaign saw the successful boycotting of white business that discriminated against black people, and chain stores reportedly lost $49,225 in sales tax revenues.[8]

In 1962, partially as a result of this event, the American Library Association membership adopted the "Statement on Individual Membership, Chapter Status and Institutional Membership" which stated that membership in the association and its chapters had to be open to everyone regardless of race, religion, or personal belief. Four state chapters withdrew from ALA: Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi.[14][15]

Unlike the Freedom Riders, Friendship Nine, and Little Rock Nine, the Tougaloo Nine are not as well known historically. Sammy Bradford, one of the Tougaloo Nine, said on the occasion of the read-in anniversary: "It seems that everybody is being celebrated and praised for their fine work except the very people who launched the civil rights movement against some of the greatest odds ever faced by man or beast. I'm not saying that the Tougaloo Nine should be rolled out like world-conquering heroes in a ticker-tape parade every year, but they should at least be acknowledged, along with many others, whenever a purported celebration of civil rights activities in Mississippi takes place."[1]

The NineEdit

  • Joseph Jackson Jr.
  • Albert Lassiter
  • Alfred Cook
  • Ethel Sawyer
  • Geraldine Edwards Hollis
  • Evelyn Pierce
  • Janice Jackson
  • James "Sammy" Bradford
  • Meredith Anding Jr.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b "Freedom Riders, Tougalou Nine reflect on the great events of 1961". Jackson Advocate. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  2. ^ a b Davis, Dernoral. "When Youth Protest: The Mississippi Civil Rights Movement, 1955-1970". Mississippi History Now. Mississippi Historical Society. Retrieved 2 December 2019.
  3. ^ "The African American 'Hidden Figures' Who Desegregated the South's Public Libraries | Essay | Zócalo Public Square". Zócalo Public Square. 2018-10-16. Retrieved 2018-10-21.
  4. ^ "The African American 'Hidden Figures' Who Desegregated the South's Public Libraries | Essay | Zócalo Public Square". Zócalo Public Square. 2018-10-16. Retrieved 2018-10-21.
  5. ^ Cook, Karen (2013). "Struggles Within: Lura G. Currier, the Mississippi Library Commission, and Library Services to African Americans". Information & Culture: A Journal of History. 48 (1): 134–150. doi:10.1353/lac.2013.0008. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  6. ^ a b McBride, Earnest. "Hamer forum pays tribute to Tougaloo 9". Jackson Advocate. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  7. ^ Wiegand, Wayne. "Desegregating Libraries in the American South Forgotten heroes in civil rights history". American Libraries. American Library Association. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  8. ^ a b c d Bynum, Thomas L. (2013). NAACP Youth and the Fight for Black Freedom, 1936–1965 (1 ed.). Knoxville: Univ Tennessee Press. p. 134. ISBN 9781572339828. Retrieved 2 December 2019.
  9. ^ "The African American 'Hidden Figures' Who Desegregated the South's Public Libraries | Essay | Zócalo Public Square". Zócalo Public Square. 2018-10-16. Retrieved 2018-10-21.
  10. ^ Evers-Williams, Myrlie; Marrable, Manning (2006). The Autobiography of Medgar Evers: A Hero's Life and Legacy Revealed Through His Writings, Letters, and Speeches. Basic Books. p. 229. ISBN 0786722495.
  11. ^ "The African American 'Hidden Figures' Who Desegregated the South's Public Libraries | Essay | Zócalo Public Square". Zócalo Public Square. 2018-10-16. Retrieved 2018-10-21.
  12. ^ "The Tougaloo Nine". MS Civil Rights Project. Rething MS. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  13. ^ "The African American 'Hidden Figures' Who Desegregated the South's Public Libraries | Essay | Zócalo Public Square". Zócalo Public Square. 2018-10-16. Retrieved 2018-10-21.
  14. ^ Robbins, Louise S. (1996). Censorship and the American Library: The American Library Association's Response to Threats to Intellectual Freedom, 1939-1969. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 117. ISBN 0313296448.
  15. ^ McCook, Kathleen de la Peña. "Rocks in the Whirlpool". ALA History - Equity of Access. American Library Association. Retrieved 2 June 2017.