Sara Criss’ Civil Rights Memoir #56: Hate Sheets

“Frequently, crudely mimeographed hate sheets titled ‘A Delta Discussion’ were being thrown onto lawns during the night. They were tightly rolled and usually found near the street. They were distributed all over the white sections of town. The wording sounded very much like De La’s utterings, and everyone suspected that these were the work of him along with such characters as Gordon Lackey, Roy Jones and Ford Byrd, some of the more outspoken segregationists who were always somewhere around when trouble started.

“The Leflore Theater was a favorite target of the ‘Discussion’ in an effort to stop white people from going there. They watched to see who might go in and then you might expect to see their name in the next sheet. One hate sheet read: ‘Citizens of Greenwood and surrounding area, we feel that we should discuss with you some of the events and circumstances surrounding those events which have occurred in our area during “the long hot summer of agitation” inflicted upon us by the imported Communist and their fellow travelers in our midst. As you know, the Leflore Theater has been one of our most persistent trouble spots. The reason for this is plain. The theater is owned by a group of out of state people whose only interest in Mississippi and her citizens is money. The manager is a Massachusetts born man who has apparently never cared to adapt himself to our local customs. Within ten minutes after the so-called Civil Rights Bill was signed, this man gave orders to his ticket agents to sell tickets to all applicants. His employees, all native born Mississippians, meekly agreed to go along with and the trouble makers appeared. They knew in advance that they would receive support from the theater manager, owners and it’s jellyfish sorry employees. It should be kept in mind that if this theater sells no tickets, it cannot continue to operate. It is our intention to see that continued patronage of this theater by anyone receives full publicity. We fully support the right of any man to operate his business as he sees fit but we also intend to focus the glaring light of publicity on any business owner or manger, local or imported, who deliberately disregards our local customs in his business operation. We recognize the Civil Rights bill as mis-labeled, unconstitutional, freedom-destroying, vicious and un-American piece of legislation and we do not intend to obey it under any circumstances.’

“In later hate sheets the names of local white citizens who had been seen going into the theater were published as a means of intimidating them. After the incident involving the newspaper editor [Thatcher Walt] not many whites thought it worth the risk.”

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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3 Responses to Sara Criss’ Civil Rights Memoir #56: Hate Sheets

  1. Nancy Webb Phillips says:

    I remember picking up one of those rolled up sheets from my yard and reading it. I took it inside and showed my mom. She told me not to pick up another one and read it and promptly threw it in the trash. I remember thinking that was odd.

    • sec040121 says:

      I still have a few in one of my mother’s scrapbooks. They were very crude and always damp from the dew. It creeped me out to think of men riding around at night, throwing these things into our yard. And you might remember one of our classmates whose mother’s name came out in one of the hate sheets, accused of hanging around with the “wrong” people. The whole family left town that day and never returned. 

      • Nancy Webb Phillips says:

        Yes, I do remember that particular family. I was creeped out by the idea of them riding around our neighborhood, too!

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