Sara Criss’ Civil Rights Memoir #60: Canadian Attention

“On September 27 [1964] a fire grenade was tossed into the home of a Negro woman, Mrs. Ruthie Mae Jones, setting fire to a chair and a portion of the floor. Officers said when they arrived at the home shortly after 10 p.m. the house was filled with smoke and the fire department was called. Fragments of the fire bomb which appeared similar to one tossed into the Leflore Theater earlier were collected by officers. She told police she did not know of any reason any one would want to harm her.

“Police said there were no new leads in an investigation of an incident at the theater, when an incendiary bomb was tossed through a door, flying across the lobby and into the theater office where it burned a desk, a portion of the floor and a door.

“On August 13, De La Beckwith, Jr., 19, was taken into custody by the police and charged with assault and battery. He was arrested on a warrant sworn out by a 19-year-old white civil rights worker, Paul Saltzman of Toronto, Canada. The incident occurred when Saltzman attempted to attend a meeting of the Association of Christian Conservatives being held at the Leflore County Court House. The purpose of the meeting was to hear speeches against the proposed amendment to the Mississippi Constitution dealing with voter qualifications. Saltzman had been working with the Democratic Party in Greenwood and had been arrested in Jackson earlier while participating in demonstrations there. In a later hearing in county court, De La, Jr. was found not guilty of the assault and battery charges after several witnesses took the stand in his behalf.

“In July Ed Moore had sent in a story from the Greenville [Commercial Appeal] bureau with a picture of the Canadian making a financial donation at a Ku Klux Klan rally in Greenville. Ed wrote: ‘If he has a yen to include in future scrapbooks a picture of himself against a background of unsuspecting Klansmen, the donating method appears to be foolproof. All that’s necessary is to look and dress like scores of other teenagers. Son of a Canadian television personality, Saltzman gained attention when members of the Canadian House of Commons asked the Government to inquire into circumstances surrounding the youth’s arrest in Jackson in June.’

“I ran into Saltzman one day at the City Hall. There were trials for some of the summer workers and Negroes going on in City Court, and I don’t remember whether he was one of the defendants or just a spectator. Anyway, he approached me at the drinking fountain and wanted to talk. He asked me if Grand Boulevard was where most of the finer homes were. I would have loved to find out more about him but again was afraid I would have been run out of City Hall for talking to him.”

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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1 Response to Sara Criss’ Civil Rights Memoir #60: Canadian Attention

  1. Stokes Dickins says:

    Salzman had an interview with Beckwith many years later, which he made into a movie, called The Last White Knight.

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