Jackson Municipal Library
Jackson, Mississippi (Hinds County)
A watershed event in the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi occurred at the old Jackson Public Library. It was here that nine students from the historically black Tougaloo College made headlines when they quietly sat in at the library, located on State Street in the heart of Downtown Jackson. The main branch served only white citizens, while blacks were sent to the substandard Carver Library. This simple act of civil disobedience began the organized protests against the Jim Crow system in Jackson.
On the morning of March 27, 1961, the “Tougaloo Nine” stopped at the Carver Library to request books they knew would be unavailable there. They then proceeded to the main branch on State Street, where the students looked through the card catalog, took books off the shelves and sat at tables and read. When the police arrived they ordered the students to the “black library”. When the students refused to leave, they were arrested and held for over thirty-two hours.
In support of their jailed counterparts, the students at Jackson State University staged a protest and boycotted class. Demonstrations of any kind were forbidden at the state-supported black school. Some students tried to march downtown but were turned back by the police. Supporters turned out for the “Tougaloo Nine” when they went to trial several days after their arrest. As the students approached the courthouse the crowd cheered, which set-off the police. They charged into the crowd and set the dogs loose. Medgar Evers was one of those in the crowd that was beaten. Myrlie Evers has said that “the change of tide in Mississippi” began with the “Tougaloo Nine” and the library sit-in.
The building, owned by the City of Jackson, has sat vacant for a number of years since the main library moved across the street into a larger building. Although not vandalized, it suffers from lack of maintenance and general neglect. The City has been trying to find a developer interested in reusing the building however their attempts have been unsuccessful.
2017 Update – In Progress
The Mississippi Baptist Convention, which has statewide offices nearby, has purchased the building. Although they haven’t announced long-term plans, they have cleaned up the site and are maintaining the building. A Mississippi Freedom (Civil Rights) Trail marker was unveiled at the site on August 17, 2017.