A Freedom Summer Student Reflects on Library Sit-In

A Freedom Summer Student Reflects on Library Sit-In (Image 1)

HATTIESBURG, Miss. – In the summer of 1964, African-American suffrage took the lead in the Civil Rights Movement. Even the children of the era served as volunteers.

But, they were still too young to have voting rights. So on August 14, 1964, Mrs. Jimmella Stokes-Jackson and her peers came together to try and change something that was affecting them directly.

She was 15-years-old when she and six of her friends tried to use the Hattiesburg Public Library. It was a white’s only building. Now it’s the city’s Culture Center.

“It was decided that i would be the speaker for the group. They stood there and I walked up to the counter and I said ‘I would like to apply for a library card.’ I don’t think we even went there thinking they were going to give us a card,” said Mrs. Stokes-Jackson.

And not only did the library not give them cards, but the building was closed that very day for inventory, supposedly.

“They closed it down so we couldn’t come back. Because I think they said if they have that much nerve, they’re going to come back.”

Mrs. Stokes-Jackson says even though her parents were against her dangerous acts, she felt it was written in her before she was born.

“I told her [mother] this in the 10th grade. When I have children I don’t want to have to stay up late at night wondering if they’re dead or alive. I want the system to have changed by the time I have children.”

For more information about Freedom Summer in Mississippi, freedom50.org/.

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