Sara Criss’ Civil Rights Memoir #69: The League

“The Negro Voters’ League, led by a school teacher, David Jordan, as much a racist as De La, became more and more active after the blacks started voting in large numbers, and white candidates soon realized they would have to have some support from the black community to win in many instances. They began going to the Voters League to speak and solicit their votes. Before each election the League would endorse those they wanted elected and pass out sample ballots in the black neighborhoods. Since many did not know who they were voting for, they just checked the names of those on the sample ballot.

“I went to one meeting of the Voters League when Gray was running for Circuit Court Judge the first time. Harry Merritt, who was at the Commonwealth, went with me. I could not believe how they treated the candidates. Charles Sullivan, who was running for Governor, and Gray were the only two on the program and when they were not speaking they were made to go in a back room and sit. They asked pointed questions to try to embarrass them. They had apparently already made up their minds to support Gray’s opponent, Webb Franklin, who is Hardy Lott’s son-in-law. After the meeting I told Alex Sanders, now a black supervisor [1990], that I could not believe they would support him with Hardy being known as probably the strongest segregationist in Greenwood. He replied, ‘It’s still open.’ In other words, money could talk. The blacks soon learned they could demand money from the candidates to pay for votes, and this was believed to be a widespread practice. All of these things have discouraged good people from running for public office, and in 1990 everyone is worried about the future of Greenwood.”

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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