Sara Criss’ Civil Rights Memoir #89: Bailing Out

“Also it was ordered that all persons other than school employees and pupils enrolled at that specific school must first go to the principal’s office to obtain admission to the campus. Otherwise they will be considered trespassers and subject to arrest and prosecution. It was further ordered that ‘any student who has in his possession an object that would be classified as a weapon while he is on school grounds or en route to or from school will immediately be suspended by the principal for an indefinite period.’

“By the time the schools opened for the first full day of classes [January 1970], the schools showed a loss of 840 white students and the addition of 10 Negro students compared to the enrollment figures of May, 1969. Greenwood High School’s enrollment included 592 white students and 242 Negro. The former black schools remained segregated. Faculties in all of the schools had been integrated.

“In an interview I had with Dr. Dribben, he said, ‘All we can hope for is that ther will be some change in the orders allowing us to go back to the 1-8 grade concept and to the neighborhood schools. We still hope to be able to carry through with the vocational program which we had planned and which was severely curtailed when grades seven and eight were removed from the elementary schools.’

“At the time he said that there were no white children at all in the seventh and eighth grades. All of these had been assigned by court order to a formerly all-black school and all had withdrawn from school. A number of them went to Pillow Academy, with more than 200 enrolled in the Greenwood private junior high, which was housed in two local churches. ‘We are about 1,000 under the number of children who were in school last year,’ Dr. Dribben said. He said they had lost blacks as well as whites. ‘One worry is the loss of state funds which will result from the decrease in enrollment,’ he said.”

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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