Blogger Lisa Nowlain

The Tougaloo Nine

The past few weeks have been violent and frightening. I’ve been trying to think about what I can do as a youth worker in the political and social context of our country, and ALSC has been providing some great resources as has SLJ.

It can be helpful to look back in our history as a profession and think about how our profession is not neutral and we need to be active about where we are now. This American Libraries article, Desegregating Libraries in the American South, deserves a second look. Below is an image of the Tougaloo Nine, who sat-in at the all-white Jackson (Miss.) Public Library. When they were marched to the courthouse, a crowd of 100 black supporters were pistol-whipped and bitten by dogs, helping to galvanize desegregation in Mississippi.

Tougaloo Nine portraits of mug shots

While purchasing diverse books and finding ways to put them into children’s hands is an important aspect of our work, what are policies, programs, and outreach we can do to make our libraries truly open to all? What can we do to make sure we are meeting our goals of serving our whole community in spite of structural inequalities? How can we work to prevent our institution from perpetuating those structural inequalities?


  1. Jonathan Dolce

    Thank you for helping to highlight a lesser-known aspect of the civil rights movement. It inspired me to do some more reading including this commentary: “Unlike the Freedom Riders and the Friendship 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.””

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