Samuel Wilbert Tucker: The Story of a Civil Rights
Trailblazer and the 1939 Alexandria Library Sit-In by Nancy Noyes Silcox
earliest-known sit-in for civil rights occurred at the Alexandria (Virginia)
Public Library on August 21, 1939. Samuel Wilbert Tucker, a young African
American lawyer, grew up in Alexandria in a family that believed reading
and education led to opportunities. When Tucker was refused a library card at
his local public library, he organized a sit-in to protest the “whites-only”
policy and defended the protesters.
graduated from Howard University, passed the Virginia Bar exam without going to
law school, and went on to fight for justice and public school desegregation
through Virginia courts and the U.S. Supreme Court. When asked his advice for
young people he said, “We need to keep what progress we’ve made and keep
fighting to get more. We’ve got to keep our story told.” The story of the
sit-in and Tucker’s work to challenge segregation shows how ordinary people can
see what is wrong and work to make it right.