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Samuel Wilbert Tucker

by Nancy Noyes Silcox

Richmond NAACP lawyer, Samuel Wilbert Tucker said, “ I got involved in civil rights on June 18, 1913. I was born black.” In 1939, when he was refused a library card, he organized a sit-in at the public library and defended the protesters.  The 1939 Alexandria Library sit-in, believed to be the earliest civil rights sit-in in a public library, challenged existing “Jim Crow” segregation laws and customs. Passing the Virginia Bar exam without going to law school, Tucker spent his 50-year career fighting for justice through Virginia courts all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.  In his 1968 Green v New Kent County case, the Supreme Court ruled school boards could no longer delay desegregating public schools, and must show immediate progress. Fourteen years after their Brown decision, this ruling sped up the pace of desegregation. Author Nancy Noyes Silcox will share stories of her research journey and how this little-known event and unsung civil rights hero inspires today’s young people.

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