Sara Criss’ Civil Rights Memoir #28: GPD Under Fire

“Many of the black ministers took part in the demonstrations and there were almost nightly meetings in the Negro churches with speeches by visiting civil rights leaders. At one time or another nearly every nationally known Civil Rights leader came to Greenwood.

“While they were mapping their strategy at those meetings the white officials also had their heads together mapping theirs in the meeting room of the City Council, but there was no dialogue between the two groups.

“It was true that many of the policemen, in fact most of them, were prejudiced against the Negroes, especially since a large percentage of the crime they had to deal with involved the Negro population, and they had to go out in the Negro section of town on Saturday nights when there were the usual stabbings and shootings. Some of them were pretty rough with them as they made their arrests, but one had to remember that their own lives had been put on the line many times as they broke up domestic fights and other disturbances. At that time all of the police force was white. They showed unusual restraint, however, when they broke up the demonstrations in downtown Greenwood, and many times they were slapped, spit upon, kicked and cursed by those demonstrating.

“After the initial marches ended the citizens of Greenwood started a fund in appreciation of their efforts with a goal of $3000 to give each man on the force $11 in overtime pay for the outstanding job they had done in helping keep the peace during the racial crisis. Those who started the fund cited the round-the-clock work of the police force with no days off. ‘They have proved themselves gentlemen with restraint above and beyond the call of duty,’ the businessman who started the fund said.”

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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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