Sara Criss’ Civil Rights Memoir #86: The Great Shuffle

“Some white parents said they would try to keep their children in the public schools even if the classes were heavily integrated the next semester, if the students were assigned to a previously all-white school, but that if they were assigned to a Negro school, they would take them out of school. Some of the white teachers expressed the same feeling. One of the principal fears facing both parents and administrators was large-scale resignations of teachers in Mississippi, which already had a shortage of qualified teachers.

“On January 24, 1970, theĀ Greenwood Commonwealth carried a large headline, ‘GHS Must Enroll All Junior, Senior Classes, Faculty on 50-50 Basis.’ The article began: ‘The Greenwood City School System today prepared to comply with U.S.District Judge William C. Keady’s order of Friday which called for immediate integration of the 11th and 12th grades in both city high schools. The order, in effect, reduces Threadgill High School to a junior high. Judge Keady ordered the plan to be implemented by February 16, but school officials said they intended to be ready on Tuesday, the beginning of the second semester.’

“Under the plan, all ninth and tenth grade students will continue to attend the school which they were zoned into last August. In this ruling, all students east of the Illinois Central Railroad were to attend Threadgill and those students residing west of the ICRR were to attend Greenwood High School. Approximately 59 students attending Davis School were to be bussed to all-white Bankston Elementary School. All of those being transferred were black.

“It was also ordered that by the beginning of the semester the teachers, teacher aides, principals and other staff who worked directly with children at a school should be so assigned that in no case would the racial composition of a staff indicate that a school was intended for Negro students or white students. Since the ration of Negro to white students was approximately 50-50, it was presumed that faculties and staff would be assigned to all schools on this ratio.”

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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