Davis Middle School students have the opportunity to meet historical author
Seventh grade students at Davis Middle School received a treat when Nancy Noyes Silcox, the author of the biography Samuel Wilbert Tucker: The Story of a Civil Rights Trailblazer and the 1939 Alexandria Sit-In, visited their school. The visit was a culmination of the students reading the biography and then working together to research violent and non-violent protests. They worked on the LEGO wall in the library as they created a media message on how to peacefully deal with conflict.
Tucker, a 26-year-old lawyer, organized the first recorded sit-in in 1939 when he encouraged fellow African Americans to stage a sit-in at the public library in Alexandria, VA, because they were denied library cards. He encouraged the young men to present themselves peacefully and respectfully with the proper dress (suits and ties) and decorum during the sit-in. He promised to keep them out of jail for their involvement in the protest.
The protestors were arrested. However, Tucker honored his promise and was able to argue the case and eventually have all the charges dropped against the protestors. Under the Jim Crow law the City of Alexandria did eventually open a second inferior library that was available to African Americans. It was not until 1960 that the second library was closed and the original library was opened to everyone, regardless of race.
Silcox shared information on the writing process but also stressed to the students how Tucker’s story illustrates the power of one and the ability to make a difference. She explained her process for researching the book that included reviewing eyewitness evidence such as videos of interviews and newspaper articles. In addition, she reviewed military records, photos, U.S. census records and city directories.
She stressed to students that visiting the public library, something we take for granted today, was not always possible for everyone. Tucker and those who participated in the sit-in are trailblazers in that fight.
Silcox is a retired librarian from the Samuel Wilbert Tucker High School in Alexandria. She retired in 2011. In regards to writing the book she said, “I never expected to write a book. I heard the story about Tucker and the sit-in and knew it was a story that needed to be told. I thought somebody needed to write his biography.”
Silcox’s life, before working at the high school in Alexandria, included a stint in the Peace Corps where she and her husband worked in Guyana. She also taught in international schools in Egypt, Jordan, Belgium and Ukraine.
“Be ready to accept opportunities that come your way,” Silcox told the students. “It takes a little bit of courage to accept those opportunities, but the outcomes are worth it.”
Students and staff had the opportunity to purchase the books and provide the opportunity for Silcox to visit the school due to a grant that Nancy Terrell, the teacher librarian at the school, received from the Hampton Education Foundation.
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