Excellence in Library Programming Award Presents: We Are the Alexandria Library Sit-In

1 hour

Join Alexandria (Va.) Library to learn about their We Are the Alexandria Library Sit-In, a yearlong celebration of the 80th anniversary of a historic protest at the library. The program was the winner of ALA's 2020 ALA Excellence in Library Programming Award.

In the 1930s, like most libraries in the Jim Crow South, Alexandria Library did not allow access to African Americans. In 1939, after an ongoing effort to convince officials to establish equal access to community resources, 26-year-old resident and attorney Samuel W. Tucker organized five other African American residents to participate in a sit-in protest.

Alexandra Library log

On August 21, 1939, William “Buddy” Evans, Morris Murray, Edward Gaddis, Clarence Strange and Otto Tucker each asked to register for a library card. 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.

>>> Read more about the We are Alexandria Library Sit-in program series in a Q&A with Alexandra Library Director Rose Dawson. <<<

To celebrate the 80th anniversary of this historic protest, the library engaged the community through school visits, a yearlong film festival, anniversary week events, posters, commemorative library cards, pins and postcards. The events, which also involved Alexandria city leadership, drew standing-room-only crowds and served as a model for programming for other libraries across the nation.

Participants of this session will learn:

  • The components of the We Are Alexandria Library Sit-In program series
  • How to create a yearlong anniversary celebration that engages the community in meaningful programs
  • Ways to build local partnerships and engage city leadership



Rose Dawson headshotRose Timmons Dawson has held the position of director of the Alexandria Library in Alexandria, Va., for 12 years. Prior to working for the Alexandria Library, Dawson held a number of progressively responsible positions for the District of Columbia Public Library, from change agent for internal affairs to the coordinator for community youth services. Dawson holds undergraduate and masters degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has completed the Executive Leadership Institute (ELI) with the Urban Libraries Council and George Washington University’s Center for Excellence in Municipal Management, from which she received a certification in public management.

She is a life member of the American Library Association (ALA) and the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA). She is also an active member of the Ethnic Multicultural Information Exchange Roundtable (EMIERT), Association of Library Services to Children (ALSC) and Public Library Association (PLA).

Dawson is the 2019 recipient of the UNC School of Information and Library Science Distinguished Alumna Award.