Sara Criss’ Civil Rights Memoir #74: Marchers and Monuments

Leflore County Court House and Confederate Monument. Photo courtesy of Donny Whitehead, aboutgreenwoodms.com

“The following day was very tense as Greenwood awaited the arrival of the marchers, whose numbers had been variously estimated to be between 500 and 1000, led by Martin Luther King. Some of the reporters said De La had been hanging around as they covered the story.

“Russell and I went to the Court House to wait for the marchers to arrive on the south side where Martin Luther King was to speak. The police had tried to see to it that there was no trouble. Then just as they passed the service station across the street from the police station, Booker Riley, who was operating the station, shot a hose at them but that little incident was soon squelched. Of course, the marchers would have loved to provoke an incident, but most of the townspeople just went on about their business and tried to ignore them.

“There were eight of the biggest Negro men I had ever seen stationed around the Confederate monument to see to it that no one attempted to climb it as they had done in Grenada. Justice Department representative Rosenberg, who always wanted to be friendly with me, asked me where the men guarding the monument had come from. I asked my friend Jimmy Green, who was on the Board of Supervisors, and in his best southern drawl he answered, ‘They’re off of my plantation.’ I believed him and relayed the answer to Rosenberg. We found out later they had been brought over from the state penitentiary at Parchman to guard our Confederate Monument.”

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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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