Sara Criss’ Civil Rights Memoir #75: King Comes to Greenwood

“[Martin Luther] King led the group up the wide front walk of the Court House and took his stand on the steps. A large crowd gathered around him, including marchers, some Court House employees, law enforcement personnel, and newsmen and me and Russell. A dirty white bodyguard put his arm across Russell as we stood right by the Reverend King. I was scared at this point and began to wonder what we were doing there when we had two children at home.

“At one point we were looking down on a sea of hundreds of black faces when they began raising their fists and shouting, ‘Black Power!’ It became a chant and I was really getting nervous. King made an impassioned speech and urged the crowd to go inside and register to vote. Four Federal examiners had set up headquarters in the Post Office the day before to register persons to vote, and one examiner said they would be open through Saturday.

“John Doar of the Justice Department and a staff of four or five persons had also set up an office in the Post Office. Mr. Doar said, ‘We are here because of the Voting Rights Act, and of course we have been keeping an eye on the freedom march. We don’t want anyone intimidated or harassed while attempting to register.’ He added, ‘And we feel that these people in counties where we have had Federal examiners will feel more free to register here. We had over 600 to register in Grenada County yesterday, and we don’t know yet how the county will handle the registration.’

“The rally did not last too long and there was no trouble when it broke up, but we felt better when they had moved on toward Jackson.”

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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