Sara Criss’ Civil Rights Memoir #23

“Though the demonstrations were tearing the town apart, much of the town went about their usual business and know only what they read in the paper about what was going on. The city officials issued statements requesting that people stay away from the downtown area during the marches, and only small groups of mostly men stood on the corners across from the Court House and watched as the police made arrests and loaded the marchers into the old school bus which had been painted black for its use in hauling them to jail.

“During one of the marches Gordon Lackey, one of the Kluxers (the name we gave to members of the Klan) brought a monkey to the Court House with a sign around his neck reading ‘I want to vote’ and tried to get him to join the marchers.

“Two days after the first march in 1963 the Mayor issued a statement saying ‘It is tragic when professional agitators, operating under the false face of non-violence, attempt to create violence. It is more tragic that the Justice Department of the United States plays nursemaid to these invaders and actively assists them in their efforts to disrupt this peaceful community. For months these agitators here from other states have frequently made collect telephone calls to the Attorney General’s office in Washington. These calls are accepted, both night and day; and no matter what ridiculous lie these professional agitators make up they get prompt action from the Attorney General. This city has been infested of late with Assistant Attorneys General of the United States, counseling with these professional trouble-makers who have come to Greenwood. What are these agitators and the Justice Department trying to accomplish with their present massing of colored mobs? It is certainly not to file voter registration applications for they have been peacefully filing these for years before the present trouble began and they have continued to do so without objection from anyone. The only purpose of these agitators is to follow the Communist line of fomenting racial violence, and the obvious purpose of the Attorney General is to get votes.’ “

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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