“I was angry.” That is how Ibrahim Mumin, from Columbus, described his state of mind when he was carried out of W.C. Bradley Memorial Library wearing handcuffs in 1963.
As a child, Mumin was quickly introduced to the cruel reality that he would not be allowed to eat at the same restaurants, study at the same schools, or read at the same libraries as white Americans. Decades earlier, the Supreme Court in Plessy v. Ferguson introduced the legal doctrine of “separate but equal,” which held that segregated facilities did not violate the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection of the law provided that equal facilities were provided for both whites and blacks.
While much of the nation’s attention was honed in on schools and restaurants, Mumin set his sights on public libraries. As a child, Mumin had a “love for books,” instilled in him by his parents who despite their lack of formal education recognized the importance books could play in their young children’s lives.
Because of his fascination with learning, Mumin frequently visited Columbus’ libraries. Columbus’ public libraries were segregated, which meant that Mumin was only allowed to visit the 4th Avenue Library – presently known as the Mildred L. Terry Public Library – despite his aunt living only 40 feet away from the whites-only W.C. Bradley Memorial Library.
“It was a joke,” said Mumin. “The 4th Avenue Library was not equal to the Bradley Library, and everyone knew it.”
Mumin was well-aware of the injustices happening around him, yet it wasn’t until he reached the 10th grade when he wanted to personally make a difference. He began to study some of America’s most sacred documents – the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution – as well as read about other Civil Rights protests that were happening in places such as Birmingham and Albany. “We have to do something here in Columbus,” Mumin recalled thinking to himself as a 15-year old boy.
Mumin attended a meeting with others who were interested in staging a protest, where it was ultimately decided that the W.C. Bradley Memorial Library would be the location for the aptly named “read-in.”
For the next several weeks, Mumin– along with the other demonstrators who would be participating – engaged in “roleplaying” sessions designed to prepare them for the harsh environment they were set to endure.
“It was really important that you have some discipline in order to do nonviolent direct action, or else it could get out of hand,” said Mumin. “They would say that people were going to call you names, spit on you, hit you, but we don’t want you to be provoked.”
For the next few weeks, Mumin took part in training sessions designed to emulate the scene he would soon face at W.C. Bradley Memorial Library. When asked if he ever began to have second thoughts once it became clear to him what he was about to experience, he responded with a resounding no. “I knew it was going to be dangerous, but to be honest I was prepared to die.”
On July 9, 1963, Ibrahim Mumin was carried out of W.C. Bradley Memorial Library in handcuffs. He was released from custody the same day after a brief encounter with the judge. The encounter with the judge “didn’t scare us that much,” Mumin commented, though he was quick to point out that while the judge did not really scare him, his mother did.
On August 2, 1963, the Muscogee County school board voted to desegregate Columbus’ public libraries. Mumin was finally allowed to attend the library that stood only 40 feet away from his aunt’s apartment.
Mumin, along with 3 of the other demonstrators, will be participating in a roundtable discussion on February 7, 2019 at the Columbus Museum. The event is free and open to the public, and everyone is encouraged to attend.