Sara Criss’ Civil Rights Memoir #20: Tensions Rising

“An issue of the Greenwood Voice put out by the Greenwood Movement, the group which was leading the marches and voter registration efforts, read:  [Note:Uncorrected original transcript from Greenwood Voice; all errors are those of the author]

On the way from the Court House I, Reverend Tucker and about 50 people (Negroes) that had gone down to register were stopped by 4 police officers, one of them hollered, “lets go, beat it, NOW!!” One of them held a German Police dog on a leash, they started walking toward us, I stood there and one of the policemen said, “this means you” I took for granted that he meant for me to go back because they were coming toward us with the dog. Then the dog ran three feet from me and I said “Man the dog,” he said “beat it,” I was backing up and hollowing to the people to stop running. I had in mind to talk to the officers to ask why, why we were going home that was all. I began backing up until I got to the corner of Howard Street. The officer with the dog kept saying “lets get going” we’re not going to have this. If you don’t want to get bit, keep going. I heard someone say, I don’t know who he is, “get that Black Preacher.” He’s the leader. then the man with the dog gave the dog a little more leach and he snapped my sock, I pulled my leg up and away from the dog and too another couple of steps down Howard Street. Then someone said “Let the dog bite him,” this is when the dog got my leg, the force of it threw me off balance and I fell up against a parked car on Howard Street. I tried to get my leg away from him and dog kept pushing forward and I fell between two parked cars, after this I don’t know what happened to the dog. An officer standing in the street outside the parked car said, “Get up” but I went on out in the street and fell right at his feet, he said, “You’re not hurt n—-r, get up out of the street, you’re not going to lay here.” I tried to move and I said “Oh my leg,” then he said, “Let me see.” I was holding my leg up because it was hurting and he said “It’s just a scratch, there is nothing wrong with you.” Mr. Jordan and a young fellow pick me up. When we got to the corner of Howard and stopped for the red light, the officer said “You had better keep going and find a car or something for him, I can’t keep these people off him any longer, they will kill him.” A truck pulled up with three white men in it, and the one on the outside said “We’re going to put him in the river.” Other voices were hollowing, “Kill him. Kill him. Kill the n—-r.” I didn’t hear anyone say kill him before the dog bit me. They just said, “Get him” “Let the dog bite him.” A cab was stopped and I was taken to Dr. Garner’s office for treatment.’

“The above was the statement the Rev. Tucker had given to the crudely mimeographed issue of Greenwood Voice (voice of the Greenwood Movement). That afternoon, at the request of some of the Citizens Council members, Bobby Pittman, who was Executive Director of the Industrial Board and who was printing the press releases for the City, and I rode out to the Reverend Tucker’s house on Walthall Street to get his side of the story. We were greeted at the front door by his wife. When we asked to speak to Rev. Tucker she answered us, ‘The Reverend is not at home. He has not been home since the tragedy this morning.’ We never did get to talk to Tucker.”

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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