Sara Criss’ Civil Rights Memoir #83: The Walls Begin to Crack

“After doing some investigating, my friend Hite McLean, a leader in the Citizens Council, brought me some notes about the three [black girls registered at Greenwood  High School], stating that Mayrene [Washington] was escorted to school by L.C. McSwine, a former Negro teacher in the Leflore County Schools, and James Moore, ‘the most consistent and vigorous picket at Liberty Cash Grocery in the early part of the year 1966.’ As to the other two students he noted, ‘These two will be remembered as having been arrested for picketing, etc. along with Stokely Carmichael and others in July, 1964, at the Leflore County Courthouse. Their arrests for picketing, etc. are now in the Federal courts, having been removed there by their attorneys, Benjamin Smith (registered agent of Castro of New Orleans0, Frank Pestana (identified Communist from California) and George Crockett (Vice President of the Lawyers Guild).’

“The three girls attended GHS that year and were graduated in 1967. The white students more or less ignored them. Mayrene was in Cathy’s typing class. The other students would not take the desks on either side of her. Cathy was one of the last to get to class because the class prior to typing was on the other end of the building. If the only seat left was next to Mayrene, she was afraid to sit there because of what the other white kids might say to her after class.

“The following year there were several more Negro students but none were in the graduating classes of 1968 and 1969 (Cathy’s class). One of the boys, whose father,  a Negro preacher, made him enroll at GHS, stayed one year and refused to go back the next year.”

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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