Sara Criss’ Civil Rights Memoir #43: The Long Hot Summer Begins

“As soon as school was out black and white college students from the North and East began heading South to help in the civil rights drive. They were being trained in Oxford, Ohio. A press release from Oxford on June 25, 1964 stated: ‘We’ll just keep going on and accomplish something,’ said a Negro staff worker, Floyd McGlothan, 38, of an indoctrination course on civil rights for 400 student volunteers. McGlothan of Greenwood and other staffers of the National Council of Churches and SNCC are preparing the students for integration work in Mississippi this summer.

“SNCC had already set up national headquarters in a building in the Negro section of Greenwood and had one of the first WATS lines in Greenwood which they used to call the Justice Department, news media, etc. The press release continued: ‘The students are to leave Oxford for Mississippi this weekend, the second such group to complete a weeks training in a program to get more Negro voters in racially tense Mississippi. McGlothan’s statement was echoed repeatedly by other workers and students when asked if the strange disappearance of three Civil Rights workers in Mississippi would affect their plans this summer. The students are determined to carry out their work although some noted they have more fear now in going South because of the disappearance of the Civil Rights workers, one of whom was in a similar school here last week. So far none has dropped out of the program. ”Of course I’m scared in going to Mississippi,'”said Barbara Mutrick, 20, of Plainfield, N.J., but I can’t think about it. I expected things like this to happen,” she added. A Civil Rights leader, Bayard Ruskin, organizer of the march on Washington last summer, is tentatively scheduled to speak to the students today.’

“In a UPI release from New York June 24 Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy declared that the Mississippi racial situation is ‘a local matter for local law enforcement and Federal authority there is very limited.‘ The Attorney General made the remark before boarding a jetliner for West Germany and a memorial observance of President Kennedy’s famous ‘I am a Berliner’ speech a year ago. The article continued: ‘Asked about the disappearance of three civil rights workers in Mississippi, Kennedy declared that the Justice Department “has taken what action we can under the Constitution.” He said the new Civil Rights Bill would not be applicable to the Mississippi crisis as far as the security of the integrationists is involved. “The bill won’t give us authority because there is no national police force. In Mississippi, it is a local matter for local law enforcement.” Asked about suggestions from parents of Northern students now in Mississippi that 2000 special agents be deputized to assure the personal safety of the civil rights advocates, the attorney general replied: “We can’t do that.”‘ 

“At the time the article was written the three Civil Rights workers were still missing in Philadelphia, Mississippi.”

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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