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Doing Right by History: The We Are Alexandria Library Sit-in

July 20, 2020
Popular Topics
Community Engagement
We Are the Alexandria Library Sit-In
Photo of the five Sit-in participants escorted out of library next to READ poster of their descendants.

In 1939, five Black men applied for library cards at a whites-only library. Then they sat in protest.

On August 21, 1939, five Black men asked to register for a library card at the white-only Alexandria (Va.) Library. After being turned down, each sat silently at a different table and began to read a library book. Police officers arrested the group and charged them with disorderly conduct.

More than 80 years later, the Alexandria Library was named the 2020 winner of the ALA Excellence in Library Programming Award for its program, We Are the Alexandria Library Sit-In. The yearlong celebration marked the anniversary of the historic protest — one of the first sit-ins of its kind in the nation.

Library Director Rose Dawson spoke with us about the celebration’s planning process, how she learned about the protest and how she views libraries as essential spaces for bringing awareness to past historical events, especially histories that are problematic.

>>>Watch a webinar about the award-winning We are Alexandria Library Sit-in program series.<<<