Sara Criss’ Civil Rights Memoir #9: Fiery Nights

“On February 20 [1963] three Negro businesses burned and fire officials said there was no suspicion of arson. Sam Block, one of the original civil rights workers to come to Greenwood with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, reported the fire to United Press International and said they were deliberately burned in reprisal for the food distribution program. He said they had been mistaken for SNCC offices. The state fire marshal investigated and said no evidence of arson was found.

“City Prosecuting Attorney Gray Evans [Sara’s sister Tricia’s husband] filed an affadavit for the arrest of Sam Block on the charge of uttering public statements meant to cause a breach of the peace. He was arrested and put in the city jail. In city court he was fined $500 and sentenced to six months in jail. These penalties, except for $250, were suspended under the condition that he behave in a lawful manner for one year.

“During this period there were numerous incidents of shots being fired into automobiles carrying civil rights workers and of fires, and usually the national news media knew about these incidents before local officials were notified.”

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About sec040121

Hello....I'm in possession of a priceless collection of memoirs and memorabilia left by my mother, Sara Evans Criss. She was a native and lifelong (88 years!) devotee of our small town, who covered this peculiar and volatile corner of the world for 30 years as the Memphis Commercial Appeal's Greenwood bureau chief, a job that started out with debutantes and high school football and wound up spang in the midst of one of the twentieth century's most enduring social upheavals. This blog is dedicated to her memory and the legacy she left behind, both for her family and her community.
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