Sara Criss’ Civil Rights Memoir #63: Typed Terror

“The hate sheets continued to be circulated in the night, and various individuals and businesses were the object of their venom. In one, Davis’s a ladies’ dress shop on Howard Street, was attacked in one of the sheets, which said ‘We also have some examples of this type of business operation going on in Greenwood. Davis Apparel Shop on Howard Street seems to prefer colored trade to white trade as their un-necessary salutations to their colored customers indicate that this is so.’ Mr. and Mrs. Davis some time later closed the store and moved back to New Orleans. They were Jewish and had never been too happy here because Jews were excluded from the Country Club, along with Italians, Lebanese, etc. The hate sheet went on: ‘The Otasco store here is another example. The manager of this store is an imported son of the state of Oklahoma. This state is noted for its very segregated Indian reservations. This man’s employment record since coming to Greenwood indicates that he prefers colored labor to white labor and we conclude after observations in his store, that he also prefers colored business to white.’ 

“The Negroes were threatened too in the hate sheet with warnings such as ‘To those of you n—–rs who gave or give aid and comfort to this civil rights scum, we advise you that your identities are in the proper hands and you will be remembered. We know that the n—-r owner of Collins Shoe Shop on Johnson Street “entertained’ Martin Luther King when the “big n——r” came to Greenwood. We know of others and we say to you—-after the shouting and the plate-passing and stupid street demonstrations are over and imported agitators have all gone, one thing is sure and certain. You are still going to be n—–rs and we are still going to be white men. You have chosen your beds and now you must lie in them. You have been duped by the promises of the hate peddlers and freedom destroying Communist propaganda which will place you right back where your ancestors were in communism is allowed to succeed in over-running this country. We warn you that we do not intend to see this happen if it means removing some of you who refuse to listen.’ The sheet was closed with ‘Edited, printed and distributed by a local civic group.'”

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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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