In August 1939, five African American men walked into the Alexandria Library on Queen Street. As part of a quiet sit-in arranged by Samuel Tucker, who lived just a short walk away, each of the men picked out a book, sat down and started reading.
Under Jim Crow laws, the library was segregated. Blacks were not allowed in.
The librarian called the police. They arrested the five men — William Evans, Otto Tucker, Edward Gaddis, Morris Murray, Clarence Strange and Robert Strange — for disturbing the peace.
Tucker, an attorney, argued to the judge they were hardly disturbing the peace. The judge never ruled on the case. In essence, he agreed with Tucker.
The following year, the city built a small library for blacks at the corner of N. Alfred and With streets. It serves today as the eastern wing of the Alexandria Black History Museum.
Tucker was not pleased at what he saw as a token act. He wanted to see the end of "Whites Only" in Alexandria. Nevertheless, there was a material gain for the black community.
In the aftermath of the senseless arrest of the two black men in Philadelphia, perhaps Starbucks could donate a significant amount of money that would be a gift towards something materially good. More importantly, it would publicly acknowledge the fact that almost 80 years after a similar event, prejudice still scars the progress we are making in the United States.