Sara Criss’ Civil Rights Memoir #41: Preaching and Picketing

“Spring came again to Greenwood in 1964 and with it came the marches. Richard Frey, a 27-year-old white Pennsylvania civil rights worker, announced that a march for registration drive would be staged on March 25 with plans for 300 Negroes to take part. On that date there were close to 100 pickets led by Aaron Henry of Clarksdale, state NAACP chairman. They marched from eleven a.m. until four p.m. A number of white ministers took part.

“Hugh Arnett, director of urban church work of the United Presbyterian Church in the USA, gave a statement to the local paper stating: ‘Today we must return to our churches where we will continue to work for racial justice in our own communities. We want the people of Greenwood to know we have not come with a sense of moral superiority but with a deep sense of the tragedy of racial division and injustice today. We appeal to the ministers of Greenwood to open channels of communication between Negroes and whites in Leflore County.’  Upon leaving the ministers said they would recommend that the National Council of Churches organize another clergy task force for Greenwood.

“On March 31 after four days of picketing the police arrested 14 of the pickets at the Courthouse when they refused to obey Police Chief Curtis Lary. They arrived at the Courthouse in five cars shortly after one p.m. and set up a line, walking back and forth. The first one to disobey orders to restrict picketing to Cotton Street was Richard Frey. Another 22-year-old white man from San Antonio was the other white arrested along with eight Negro men and four Negro women. They were charged with disorderly conduct. They had been told the night before where they could walk, that they had been allowed to protest for four days and were monopolizing the stretch of sidewalk and main entrance of the Court House.

“Some of the newsmen from Atlanta said Frey had told them the night before that the situation here had reached a crisis. Frey, who was working with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, had been in Greenwood for several months and had been arrested several times. He always wore bib overalls and was living out in the black section of town. His father came down to get him out of jail one time. He was a very distinguished looking gentleman who was Dean of the Law School at the University of Pennsylvania. Gray [Evans] talked to him about his son and he told Gray that he had done everything he could to get him to stay out of the troubles down her and to come home and that he could not do a thing with him. He was just one of the many young ones who were idealistic during the ’60s and adopted a cause.”

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 #41: Preaching and Picketing

  1. Leslie Faulkner Mosley says:

    Hello! I came across this website today and was suprised to find some photos and stories about Sara’s friend, Lucille McAlexander, my maternal grandmother (my mother, Patricia Pillow Faulkner grew up in Greenwood, too). My Nana passed away last year at at 90 years of age. What a delight to discover these stories and from my Nana’s teen years! If you happen to come across any more of her, I would love to see them! Thanks for sharing!

    • sec040121 says:

      I’m so glad you found the website and enjoyed the pictures of Lucille. My mother always cherished her friendship and remembered those years at GHS as golden. And I think of your mother often as I’m going down Poplar Street, past that house on the corner of Bell Avenue where the photos were made in the late 1930s. They were so young and had so much ahead of them, but on those sunny days, they were forever 17 (or 16). I have a few more photos of your grandmother, if you’d like for me to find them and send by email. Thanks so much for getting in touch.

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