Hollis was part of the National Association For the Advancement of Colored People Youth Council, along with members Joseph Jackson Jr., Albert Lassiter, Alfred Cook, Ethel Sawyer, Evelyn Pierce, Janice Jackson, James "Sammy" Bradford and Meredith Anding Jr. Then-Field Secretary Medgar Evers had helped them organize the read-in at the library and alerted the media about the silent protest, and Tougaloo chaplain John Mangram served as an adviser to the students.
Upon going into the library, then at 301 N. State St., Edwards and the others knew what they had to do: Ask for research books that were not available at the "colored" library across town.
A Clarion-Ledger story published the day after the event says the students went up to the circulation desk, arriving in twos and threes, and told the librarian they needed certain books to do research.
She refused them and ordered them to leave, but the students remained and sat at tables in the center.
"Some began thumbing through the card index while others scribbled notes from reference books," Ledger staff writer Edmund Noel wrote. "They ignored the anxious situation they had created."
Police charged the students with breaching the peace and took them to jail. Hollis said in her memoir that the smells in the cell were worse than the outhouses at home and at school growing up in Vidalia, Miss. She recalls dancing in the cell to remain "lighthearted and strong" despite the circumstances. She was in a cell with another young woman, and the other two women were in one across from hers.
"I do not know what they did with the young men," Edwards wrote.
Joseph Jackson Jr. told the Orange County Weekly in 2015 that he feared for his life in that cell as he thought back to Emmett Till and Mississippi's legacy of lynching black people.
The morning after the read-in, the nine went into municipal court and left with a 30-day suspended sentence and a $100 fine.
In 1962, the American Library Association established that member libraries had to open facilities to everyone regardless of race, religion or personal belief. Mississippi and three other southern states withdrew from the association that year.
While then-racist newspapers like the Clarion-Ledger at the time blamed this event for making Mississippi the target of overt racial demonstrations—something the reporter covering the read-in believed the state was the last to avoid in the Deep South—the Tougaloo Nine are now far less recognized compared to other protesters of the era.
But in August 2017, a Freedom Trail Marker went up in front of the old Jackson Municipal Library to commemorate this moment in history, with seven of the nine in attendance.