Sara Criss’ Civil Rights Memoir #58: Big Shots (of Two Kinds)

“In August [1964] Negro Academy Award winner Sidney Poitier and singer Harry Belafonte left Jackson after a fourteen-hour visit and flew into Greenwood. They went to the Negro Elks Rest [? sic; not sure what Sara is referring to here] where they spoke at a civil rights meeting. During the meeting Belafonte presented the workers with a check for $7000. He told a reporter in Jackson that they had raised the money for workers in Mississippi but did not disclose the source. Belafonte said they had come here ‘to get a first hand look.’

“One Saturday night in August, Silas McGhee was shot in the left side of the head while he was sitting in a car parked in front of Lula’s Cafe in the Negro section of town. He was taken to Greenwood Leflore Hospital and later moved to University Hospital in Jackson, where the bullet was removed. His condition was reported to be satisfactory, and apparently he suffered no ill effects. Immediately after the shooting, police called out the auxiliary units, and the late-evening shift was called to duty an hour ahead of time. Again, we went to the Police Station, and things were quite tense. As we left, we met some of the Kluxers in front of City Hall.

“The troubles continued on into September, when the Leflore Theater was splattered one night with bright red paint. The paint was splattered on the building by means of light bulbs filled with red paint. In all, eight 100-watt bulbs were thrown into the theater. A night or two before the theater was the target for pieces of concrete which broke two windows in the lobby doors and also broke the glass candy counter inside the theater.”

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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