Tag Archives: anniversaries

Remembering a 1939 sit-down strike

On this date in 1939, Samuel Wilbert Tucker and six collaborators staged what has got to be one of the cleverest civil rights sit-ins of all time. One by one, William Evans, Otto L. Tucker, Edward Gaddis, Morris Murray, and Clarence Strange went to the circulation desk at the Alexandria (VA, US) Public Library and requested library cards. As each was refused a card to use the library his taxes supported, he quietly went to the stacks, selected a book, sat at a table, and began to read it. Then the next followed with the same request, result, and action.

S. J. Ackerman’s 2000 account, published as “Samuel Wilbert Tucker: The Unsung Hero of the School Desegregation Movement” in Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, begins with the priceless description of these events shown at the right. Eventually, of course, library managers and city officials summoned the police. Meanwhile, according to story, Robert Strange (the sixth collaborator) raced to Mr. Tucker’s nearby law office and alterted him about how the events were occuring.

Inside the library, the police arrested the miscreant readers and led them outside. When they emerged from the library, the officers and five collaborators found 300 spectators, according to Mr. Ackerman. Mr. Tucker’s ploy had worked spectactularly on the ground, though it didn’t generate as much press as one might have hoped. According to Mr. Ackerman’s account, “The media paid scant attention to the episode. Preoccupied with the Hitler-Stalin pact, disclosed that same day, the Washington Star missed the story. The Post reported that ‘five colored youths’ had staged a ‘sit-down strike.’ The Times Herald and the African-American Washington Tribune used similar terminology.”

Even if it didn’t make a big splash, the 1939 sit-down strike in a public library sounds like an early incident in something pretty important. Civil rights. Non-violence. Rule of law. Access to public services. The list could go on and on….

There are sequels to this story: Mr. Tucker was later offered a library card for a “colored library,” and he refused it. He later co-founded an eminent law firm in Richmond (VA, US) and argued important civil rights cases, many before the US Supreme Court (including Green v. County School Board of New Kent County). He served for many years as the representative of Virginia’s NAACP. And very much more.

You can read more about Mr. Tucker including Mr. Ackerman’s account and the Wikimedia biographical entry about him.


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Filed under Civil rights, Education, Equity, Justice, Neighborhood, Non-violence, Peace, Politics, Thanks for reading


xkcd comic about pi with caption: my most famous drawing and one of the first I did for the site
Randall Munroe’s Classic Pi Day Comic

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Filed under Amusements, Memories, News

Those dang TJ muzzles must be here somewhere

TJ Muzzle Image

O.K. I hope I’ve set this up correctly so that this delightful image by artist Sam Welty is linked to the page that will show the TJ Center muzzles when they are announced on Mr. Jefferson’s B’day, 13 April 2011.

HB, Mr. Jefferson. Thanks for thinking about things.

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Filed under Amusements, Birthdays, Civil rights, Free speech, Neighborhood, News, Notes and comments, Politics, Thanks for reading

π day once again

It’s that time of year again. Today is 3.14.2011, so it Π Day! Yea! And Hoppy Birdthay, Albert Einstein.

When I was a high school sophomore, I thought it was pretty cool that I could remember π to four decimal places. Then my friend Bill off-handedly recited it a coupla-few digits beyond 3.1415926 and said, “Pffft…that’s all I can remember.” At my current age, I’m happy to remember anything beyond 3.14.
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HB Jonas Salk

Jonas Salk, the medical researcher who developed the first safe and effective polio vaccine in the early 1950s, was born in New York City on this day in 1914. His scientific work on the creation of the polio vaccine was important not only because it addressed a great clinical need, but also because it applied a previously unused technique—killed virus in a vaccine. What is more, because it occurred at a time of rapid progress in mass communications (TV was just becoming commmonplace), the news of the scientific developments spread nearly instantly and Dr. Salk attained great celebrity.

As a young child I remember the stir about the vaccine, discussions of the live and dead virus, eggs, polio, iron lungs, swimming pool water, and on and on. And, of course, I remember getting vaccinated. Before the vaccine, I have a vague sense that maybe some child at the edges of my peer group may have gotten polio and disappeared into the shadows. But the rest of us stood in lines at the armory. Maybe a second or third dose was in the form of a sugar cube?

Anyway, hats off too Dr. Salk and the many others who have worked so diligently to develop preventive vaccines and to immunize populations.



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HB, Mr. Lennon

Everybody’s talkin’ ’bout… John Lennon’s birthday. So, this year he’d have turned 70 years old. I wonder what his voice would sound like at this age. I wonder what his lyrics would be. Anybody wonder if he might have paraded about naked with saggy skin while weary his OBE medal?

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Filed under Amusements, News, Tunes

1st to 17th bdays?

Dear Little Baby

I hope you have a happy birthday, today. I suspect your parents and many others will provide a big party for you. You may not understand much about birthdays, and it’ll be a many moons before you understand these celebrations. That’s O.K., because this is your first one. What do you know? You’re just learning.

After perhaps your third birthday, you’ll get the idea that birthday parties are pretty exciting for parents. Parents help to make them exciting for you by associating your annual start of another year around the our Sun with special foods, gifts, animated talking, and even some bouncy, jumping movements.

Over the years (in keeping with pretty fancy educational programming, even if your parents didn’t know that they planned it that way) these things will gradually change. For example, in few years, the food aspect will be less about cake and ice cream and more about where you’d like to go for dinner and the movements will become be less bouncy-jumpy and more about hugs (still about closeness!). The talking will change from “ga-gah-goo-goo” to remembering previous birthdays or tolerating other guests at the birthday party when they say, “Oh, I remember you when you were just this big” (thumb and fore-finger held closely together).

As should be the case at this early party, your parents will be very closely associated with your birthday celebrations. That’s because these celebrations are especially important to them, too. That’s because they get to be at the party. That’s because it’s really great for them to see you…just to see you, to marvel at your very existence. Just to feel their chins muscles move up and the corners of their eyes crinkle. That’s because, each year, they’ll be so happy to have loved you for another year.

Enjoy this one as best you can. You’ll come to anticipate these little events, I am pretty sure.

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Filed under Birthdays, Humanism, Memo to me, Memories, Neighborhood, Notes and comments