Sara Criss’ Civil Rights Memoir #66: Voting Rights

“On August 6, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Voting Rights Act. We did  not fully realize how much this would affect our city and county and state in the years to come. After the Voting Rights Act was passed the Justice Deparment announced they were sending Federal registrars to see to it that everyone who wanted to register to vote was registered. The poll tax ($2) which had been charged anyone registering was abolished and no longer could the Circuit Clerk give a test as a requirement for voting. There were to be no literacy requirements, even though under the new law some states were allowed to have literacy requirements. Since Mississippi, as well as some other states, had ‘systematically denied blacks the right to vote’ we were treated differently.

“Soon after the bill was passed the registrars arrived in the basement of the old Post Office. We were on the coast at a Lewis [Grocery Company] Convention when we heard that Greenwood and Canton were the first two towns in the state where they would be sent. When we got home and drove by the Post Office, there were long lines on the sidewalks waiting to be registered. You could hardly get into the Post Office. As many as 450 new voters a day were being put on the voting rolls of the county. Almost overnight more than 5000 persons were registered as eligible to vote. Many of them did not even know what they were registering for and asked questions like ‘Now can I go home and bring my six children to register?’ or ‘When do I get the food?’ Some did not even live in the county.

“When they were having the marches to the Court House I had told Georgia that if she wanted to go register at the Court House I would take her down there, but she had said, ‘Mrs. Criss, I don’t know what they mean when they says “vote.”‘ She had not been feeling well during that period and had stayed at home. That day we returned home from the coast and saw the lines at the Post Office, who should be leaning on a railing but Georgia. The Negro preachers had stirred them up on Sunday and told them they should go down to the Post Office and register, and Georgia thought that what Reverend Valentine told her came straight from God.”

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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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2 Responses to Sara Criss’ Civil Rights Memoir #66: Voting Rights

  1. Jenny adams says:

    Aw Georgia. i liked this post

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