Sara Criss’ Civil Rights Memoir #50: Caught in the Middle

“On July 10 the Executive Committee of the Greenwood Citizens Council urged owners of businesses affected by the Civil Rights Bill to ‘resist its enforcement by all lawful means.’ In a five-point statement they promised support to anyone involved in litigation for refusal to serve Negroes. ‘You will have the backing of this community including financial assistance from the White Citizens Legal Fund,’ the statement said. It stated further: ‘We call upon every citizen in this community white and colored to join with us in giving no aid or comfort by word or deed to the advocation of forced integration.’

“That same day it was reported that FBI director J. Edgar Hoover had arrived in Jackson to talk with Mississippi officials about the racial situation. The Negroes continued to integrate the Leflore Theatre and on July 11, six of them left the theater voluntarily. Police and sheriff’s deputies had been called and informed that the Negroes were going to the theater. Three sheriff’s cars stood outside the building after they entered. The FBI had agents stationed at the theater also.

“By this time poor Mr. Marchand, the manager, was about to have a nervous breakdown. He had been caught between taking orders to integrate from his parent company and the local folks who were determined they would close the theater. After the six left, a crowd of about 50 white persons stood around for two hours outside the theater as sheriff’s officers stood by. At one point a fire alarm was turned in for the corner of Fulton and Washington Streets, where the theater was located, when an automobile caught fire.”

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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