Sara Criss’ Civil Rights Memoir #25: The View from Memphis

“In another editorial in the Commercial Appeal it was stated: ‘Among the visitors in Greenwood Miss is Dick Gregory, a Negro, who has recently climbed to the edge of the big entertainment world as a comic. He has announce he is going to stay until the Federal Government does something about police brutality and allows those people to go to the Court House to vote! Because his name is familiar, newspapermen report his words and they probably have been printed all over the country simply because he said them. But the readers ought to know at the same time how false they are. This sounds as though big bulls in uniforms are beating up Leflore County’s Negroes to keep them away from the polling place. The fact is the visitors to Greenwood have been frustrated in their search for violence. Even the Chicago funny man has been left standing in the street, unbruised and unable to even get himself arrested. The agitators have attempted to get large crowds surging through the streets in demonstrations that would bring on riots (and money) in South Chicago, Harlem or Boston. The police of Greenwood have adroitly dispersed crowds, as the police of South Chicago, Harlem and Boston would have to do under the same circumstance. That peace officers have been able to preserve the peace day after day of deliberate provocation is a disappointment for the violence hunters. It is a further fact that the attempted marches have included outsiders, underage Negroes, residents of adjoining counties and assorted persons of many origins, with some bona fide residents of Leflore County. Throughout these invitations to violence Leflore County Negroes have been going to the courthouse and have gone through the standard legal procedures of registering as voters. Those who meet the requirements have been registering every day. It is an orderly procedure, and numerous Negroes are now prepared to vote in the next election. The variation from normal comes in attempts to organize demonstrations on the way to and from the courthouse. Unless there is hope that Federal officials can get the violence others have been unable to produce, we wonder what else troublemakers in Greenwood have in mind.’ 

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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2 Responses to Sara Criss’ Civil Rights Memoir #25: The View from Memphis

  1. Nancy Webb Phillips says:

    Mary Carol, I am so glad you are posting this. It is good to get an eyewitness account of what really happened. We were really too young then to understand what was going on. I was most likely oblivious to any of this.

  2. Ed Schmitt says:

    Thank you so much for your blog posts. I am actually working on a book about Dick Gregory and the civil rights movement and I was wondering if I might contact you directly with a few questions. Feel free to contact me at the e-mail address I listed if you would be willing.

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