Mississippi Freedom Trail
On March 27, 1961, nine African American Tougaloo
students quietly sat in at the Jackson Municipal Library,
which served only white patrons. Pollce ordered
them to Carver Library, the "colored" library, and
when they refused, arrested them. Large public protests
were held at Jackson State University and in front of
the city jail, and violence erupted on the day of their
trial. The library sit-in inspired activity by black youth
across the state to integrate public parks, swimming
pools, stores, and movie theaters.
The Jackson Municipal Library
Nine members of the Tougaloo
Southern Christian College NAACP youth council-Meredith Anding, Jr., James "Sammy" Bradford, Alfred Cook, Geraldine Edwards, Janice Jackson, Joseph Jackson, Jr., Albert Lassiter, Evelyn Pierce, and Ethel Sawyer—carefully planned their March 27, 1961, sit-in at the Jackson Public Library. They held training sessions in nonviolent resistance and alerted the press about the time, place, and purpose of their action. They knew that the public library, supported by taxes of both black and white citizens, had no legal right to refuse them service.
After stopping by Carver Library, the small and inadequate "colored branch" to ask for books they knew were not available there, they moved
on to the State Street branch and began research. The police arrived quickly and arrested them on charges of breach of the peace. The "Tougaloo Nine," as they became known in the press, remained in custody for thirty- two hours while the sheriff delayed attorney Jack Young in his efforts to post bond.
Support for the students spread quickly, and Jackson State University students Dorie and Joyce Ladner, working with NAACP field secretary Medgar Evers, organized a sympathy prayer meeting in front of the library at 7 p.m. Nearly 700 people were gathered there when president Jacob Reddix arrived, anxious about future funding for his state-supported school, and ordered the students back to the campus. The next day JSU students boycotted classes and staged a rally, then began a march towards the city jail, where the nine Tougaloo students were meeting with their supportive president, Dr. Daniel Beittel, who was white. A line of police greeted them, with clubs, tear gas, and police dogs. The next day the New York Times
featured coverage of the sit-in and violence prominently.
On March 28, as crowds gathered outside during the trial, violence continued. Medgar Evers was among many assaulted during a police riot and later described the beating of men and women by police with clubs and pistols. The Tougaloo students were quickly convicted, fined $100 each,
and given thirty-day suspended jail sentences. The case was later thrown out on appeal.
The Tougaloo Nine's activism inspired African American protests, especially among
young people, around the state. They organized protests against segregated public parks, swimming pools, stores, and movie theaters. Myrlie Evers later wrote that a "change of tide in Mississippi" began with the Jackson Library sit-in.