[This narrative is based on the Daily Event Log kept by the author from July through December of 1966 and later retyped as a report for SCLC headquarters in Atlanta. Regarding terminology, this was originally written in 1966 when the preferred term was "Negro."]
See also Documents From the
Grenada County, population 18,400. The western portion of the county dips down into the flat, rich cotton country of the Delta, the hilly eastern portion is partially flooded by Grenada Lake. Nine out of every ten people in Grenada County were born and raised in Mississippi (not many "foreigners" move to Grenada, at least not to stay). More than half of the county's population live in the Rural areas. Half the population have a year-round steady job, the other half do not.
Grenada is small, but like all Mississippi counties, it is big enough to contain two separate but unequal worlds. Half the population of both county and town are Negro (9,061 Negroes in the county). The median number of school years completed for Negroes is 5.1 (for whites it is 12.1). At least 300 Negro adults have never attended any school at all, only 82 are college graduates. The median income for Negro families is $1401, for whites it is approximately $4300. (In 1966 the U.S. Government defined "poverty" for a family of four as an annual total income under $3300.)
Most of the population of Grenada county is supported by Agriculture. The traditional cotton is slowly being replaced by corn, peanuts, and sorghum. The traditional Negro field hand is swiftly being replaced by machines. By 1966 almost all of the Negro sharecroppers have lost their land, their farms turned over to the machines. The former sharecroppers have either left the county or are subsisting on day labor.
Grenada (Town): population 8,000, county seat of Grenada County. The town of Grenada sits halfway between Memphis and Jackson on the main North-South road (Highway 51). Perched on the hills that border the eastern edge of the Mississippi Delta, the Yalabusha river flows past the north side of town. There is little industry: a few lumber mills, a hosiery factory, an air-conditioner workshop, and some other light industries. Only a few Negroes work in these plants.
As you drive through Grenada's tree-shaded, paved streets past red-brick homes on wide green lawns you know you are in Grenada's white world. Grenada's Negro world exists on dusty dirt roads, with small, weather-beaten "shotgun" shacks crammed side by side into every available inch of land. Negroes still sit in the rear of the four Greyhound busses that briefly pause each day at the bus depot. Negroes are not permitted to enter the library. White women work behind the desks and cash registers of downtown Grenada, Negro women push the mops and scrub the floors.
Grenada county has always been a segregation stronghold. Few Negroes are registered to vote, and fewer still dare cast ballots, of 4300 eligible Blacks only 135 (3%) are registered while white registration is 95%. Over the previous century there have been a number of lynchings four in one day in 1885. Blacks don't get "uppity" in Grenada, not if they want to stay. There has never been any significant Civil Rights Movement activity in the County, it was considered too tough a nut to crack. In May of 1966, Grenada still lives as if it is 1886.
Wednesday, June 15. At 3 o'clock in the afternoon the Meredith Mississippi March Against Fear (and with it, the 20th Century) comes striding down Hiway 51 into Grenada.
The white power structure has a plan to handle this emergency make promises, and provide no pretext or reason for continued protest. See to it that these "outside" marchers have no issues to demonstrate about, and assume that the local Negroes will "stay in their place." As City Manager John McEachin explained to a reporter, "All we want is to get these people through town and out of here. Good niggers don't want anything to do with this march. And there are more good niggers than sorry niggers."
McEachin's plan fails. The response of the Negro community is powerful, second only to that of Canton, some days later. A voter rally is held on the town square. Doctor Green of SCLC places a small American flag on the Confederate War Memorial Statue. To the local whites, this is a "desecration." The flag is torn down by enraged white onlookers as soon as the March leaves.
After the rally, Negro Grenadans line up at the courthouse to be registered by the four Negro registrars who have been temporarily hired by the county to co-opt the march. That night, the mass meeting is addressed by Dr. King. After the meeting, more than 200 people march from the church up to the square to register. 160 Negroes are registered in Grenada that day.
The next day, the Meredith March continues on it's way to Greenwood and eventually Jackson. But several SCLC civil rights workers are left behind to continue the voter registration drive. Although the Negro registrars are soon fired, 1300 people are registered over the next two days. During this time the white power structure takes back all of the promises they had made in response to the march, including desegregation of public facilities. (Desegregation is required under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but that Federal law has yet to be implemented in Grenada.)
The civil rights workers who remain behind after the march departs continue efforts at voter registration and began organizing an on-going movement. In a mass meeting the people vote to affiliate their new movement, the Grenada County Freedom Movement (GCFM), with SCLC.
Then it is revealed that more than 700 of those just registered at the Courthouse were tricked. By Grenadan law, all residents of Grenada town have to be given a slip of paper by the registrars in the courthouse which they then must take to the City Hall so that they can vote in city elections. No one had been given those slips, or informed that they had to register twice.
Thursday, June 23. One week after the arrival of the Meredith March, a group of students try to purchase tickets in the downstairs "white" section of the movie theater. When they are not allowed to buy tickets, they sit down on the sidewalk in front of the theater. Fifteen are arrested, including SCLC staff member Jim Bulloch who is charged with "inciting to riot."
This incident revives interest in the movement that had been fading due to the discouragement of the double-registration trick. Now that the students (who are too young to vote) are involved, their courage and energy inspires the adults.
Monday, July 4. Civil rights workers and Grenadians who had been working with the movement are invited to a 4th of July party by an "Uncle Tom." When they come to her property in the Sweethome district, she swears out trespass warrants against them and 27 are arrested.
Thursday, July 7. At a mass meeting in Vincent Chapel, it is decided to stage a protest march that evening. The march is broken up by the police and 43 are arrested for violation of a parade ordinance.
Saturday, July 9. A campaign is begun to "integrate everything in town" and make Grenada an "open city."
The GCFM leadership presents 51 demands to the white power structure. These demands are mostly for the desegregation of public facilities, and a demand for Negro voter registrars with evening and neighborhood registration. Also included is a demand for equal employment.
Teams are sent to restaurants, motels, the library, the swimming pool, etc. Most places comply with the Civil Rights Act and serve the teams which are made up primarily of students. There is some violence from whites. The swimming pool permanently closes rather then integrate.
Later that night, two civil rights lawyers and an official from the Department of Justice are shot at with a machine gun outside Bellflower Baptist church which has become the movement headquarters. They are not hit, but their car is completely shot up. The machine-gunner is arrested after pointing his weapon at a local white woman and her children. He is initially charged with attempted murder. Over the course of the following weeks, the charge is reduced to "aiming and pointing a weapon," (at the local white woman). He is later acquitted by an all-white jury.
For months, the open-city campaign continues, with suits filed under the federal Civil Rights Act against non-complying establishments. With the Meredith March now completed, SCLC assigns additional staff to Grenada.
Sunday, July 10. Small integrated groups attempt to attend services at some of the white churches. They are all refused entrance. Similar attempts are made on every following Sunday for many weeks. No white church ever allows a Negro inside to pray, nor are whites accompanying Negroes allowed inside.
A demonstration is held in front of the County Jail where those who were arrested on the night march of July 7 are still incarcerated. Since the parade ordinance bars marches, we "drift" there in small groups. About 50 demonstrators rally on the Jailhouse lawn with around 250 Negro onlookers watching from the sidelines. The action is ended when a large force of Mississippi state troopers begin to form up in riot gear behind the courthouse. By the time the troopers arrive we are on our way back to the church. Seeing no demonstrators to beat, the troopers attack the bystanders, hitting many with rifle butts. (As a general rule in Grenada, the troopers preferred to beat folk with their rifles, while the city cops and sheriffs favored the more traditional billy clubs.) A dozen or so bystanders are injured.
Monday, July 11. At the mass meeting that night, a "Blackout" (boycott) of all white merchants is announced to protest the beatings the day before, and to enforce the 51 demands of July 9.
Tuesday, July 12. We begin to picket downtown in small numbers to enforce the "Blackout."
A Federal Court declares unconstitutional the parade ordinance used to block the marches. The white power structure publishes the 51 demands in the local paper and says:
Wednesday, July 13. A large picket line is sent downtown. All 45 are arrested for some reason that is never clearly explained or understood by anyone.
Thursday July 14. We stage the first big march since the parade ordinance is declared unconstitutional. In the heat of the afternoon, 220 marchers led by Hosea Williams of SCLC go uptown. We enter the town square and move on to the central green. When we get to the green we find ten Negro prisoners brought in from Parchman State Prison. They are protecting the Confederate Memorial statue under orders to prevent us from touching it. We leave them alone knowing the terrible punishment that they will suffer if the statue is "violated," or "desecrated" with another American flag.
After a rally on the green we march to the courthouse to try to register more voters. Sheriff Suggs Ingram refuses to let more than 3 people at a time into the courthouse. We refuse to let small groups go in alone because of the danger of intimidation and violence. This is the first march in Grenada since the Meredith March passed through that is allowed to complete without being blocked, arrested, or attacked by the police.
Friday, July 15. Another afternoon march by about 250 folk on a blazing hot day. Later, a number of students go out to integrate the swimming beach at the lake. While they are at the lake, there is a meeting of the Negro business and professional people. They pledge their support to the movement.
That night we hold our first successful night march. We know that night marches are dangerous because racists can attack from cover of darkness but more people can participate because it's after working hours. We start with 250 from Bellflower, go up around the courthouse, and then over to Union Street in the Negro section near Bellflower. There we hold a street rally. By the time we get back to the church there are more than 600 people on the march.
This establishes a pattern that is followed every day for the next three months: A mass meeting in the evening, then a night march to the square with either a rally at the courthouse or on the green.
Monday, July 18. 48 Blackout pickets are arrested downtown for "blocking a sidewalk."
Wednesday, July 20. Federal Court in Oxford hears our request for an injunction to enforce the First Amendment and halt police interference with demonstrations.
Friday, July 22. Federal Judge Claude Clayton issues a sweeping injunction ordering police to stop interfering with lawful protest, ordering police to protect our demonstrations, and requiring that we follow certain rules set down for the conduct of marches.
Saturday, July 23. The white community reacts in fury to the injunction. A large mob of angry whites, estimated at around 700 and reportedly including five carloads of Klansmen from Philadelphia MS (where Chaney, Schwerner, and Goodman were murdered), gather on the square to attack the night march. They are visibly armed with clubs, chains, and knives. We assume they also have hidden guns.
The Mississippi state troopers claim to be "caught by surprise" by this "sudden" hostile mob. They claim they don't have enough men to protect the march, but if we cancel the march tonight they promise they will bring in reinforcements and protect the march on the following nights. We accept this, and do not march. When the whites discover that we are not going to march, they advance down Pearl and Cherry Streets to attack Bellflower church where we are having our mass meeting. The troopers block them.
Sunday, July 24. Again there is a huge mob of whites on the square. Estimated at over 1,000. Again the troopers say they do not have enough men to protect us and ask that we not march. We refuse to cancel the march. About 200 of us march to the square. When we get there, we just walk along the West side of the square (by the front of the Courthouse) and then quickly leave the area and go back to the church. This catches the mob by surprise as they had been waiting for us to stop and start our rally before attacking. When they realize what has happened they again attempt to attack Bellflower church, but are stopped by the troopers. Unable to get at us, they attack reporters and a TV camera crew.
As is typical for most Grenada marches, the majority of the demonstrators are students (usually about half the total number) and a third are adult women, along with a handful of adult men and SCLC staff members. Though men ministers mostly form the visible leadership of the movement, its backbone and core are women and kids.
Monday, July 25. Realizing that they will not be able to bluff us out of marching, and smarting under the glare of publicity (newspapers and national TV like to cover mobs because they provide such dramatic pictures), the white power structure brings in heavy reinforcements of troopers to prevent violence. They begin a campaign to convince whites to stay away from our marches. They think that if we are deprived of our "white audience" we will stop marching. As a result of this plan the mob on the square is half the size perhaps 500 as the previous night. About 220 of us march around the green and then back to the church.
Tuesday, July 26. Only 100 whites show up to heckle and harass us. Our march is now twice as large as the white group. We resume our rallies on the green.
Wednesday July 27 Thursday August 4. We continue nightly marches and rallies on the square, averaging between 150 and 200 people. The square is deserted each night except for us and the police.
During the week following the resumption of rallies on the square and the power structure's "no audience" campaign, the police make a series of harassment arrests for alleged traffic violations, disturbing the peace, and other trumped up charges. SCLC staff member R.B. Cottenreader is arrested for "touching" a white lady while picketing, four people in a car are arrested for being in the intersection when the light changes to yellow, and so on.
During this period, bogus "Boycott Over" leaflets mysteriously appear in the Negro communities. People are not fooled, and the Blackout continues.
It becomes clear that although our numbers decreased slightly, the "no audience" campaign has failed to stop our marches. The power structure apparently decides to go back to violence.
Friday, August 5. There is a fund-raising party in the Tie Plant neighborhood with SCLC's Freedom Singers. Around midnight, troopers and police surround the Collins Cafe were the party is being held and block all the roads leading into the area. They shoot tear gas into the cafe and arrest as many people as they can on various charges such as "drunk & disorderly" and so forth. About 50 people are arrested.
Saturday, August 6. New demands related to police brutality and state repression against protesters exercising their First Amendment rights of free speech are added to the demands made on July 9.
Monday, August 8. Federal Voter Registrars open an office at the Chat & Chew Cafe on Union Street in the Negro community. (They had previously had an office in the basement of the Post Office, but the aura of fear and violence hanging over the downtown area kept everyone away and they had registered only 22 people in two weeks.) Over 300 people are registered the first day, including many who were finishing up the registration process started at the courthouse but not completed because of the double-registration trick.
A night voter rally is held in front of the Registrars new offices. The police order us to clear the streets. We do, but continue the rally on the sidewalk and yard. The police attack with tear gas, and beat people with their billy clubs. About 20 people are injured.
MISSISSIPPI VOTER RALLY
Hot, drippy eveninng,
red & yellow bars of neon light.
A crowd of dark shadows
defiantly standing in the Mississippi night.
Car roof buckles under the weight
of silhouetted shadows against the neon.
Courage and song rise up from
the surrounding sea of unseen folk
engulfing us like a warm friendly ocean.
Helmets advance out of the dark
fearsome, their long false faces
hideous masks of death.
A shouted command, choking fumes,
Can't breath, can't see.
The warm ocean scatters like
Blindly running, blindly escaping.
Clubs thud against fragile flesh
as helmets leap out of the night,
out of the agonizing blinding fog
to fall on helpless innocence.
Quite, echoing quite,
the damp Mississippi night closes in
on homes strangely dark.
Black shadows peer from dark windows
as the Mars-men patrol their temporarily conquered territory,
boots echoing off stony-faced homes.
Inside, in the dark, human blast furnaces
forge inner resolve.
Hammers of anger pounding out determination,
tomorrow... tomorrow.. tomorrow...
Tuesday August 9. Another voter rally is held in front of Chat & Chews. A mob of whites gather at the corner of Commerce (Hiway 51) & Union St. a quarter block from Chat's. With around 280 folk, we start to march up to the square but are attacked by the mob. The troopers reluctantly clear a path and we continue uptown.
When we reach the square we find it occupied by 700 or so whites, with about 400 of them on the green where we usually hold our rallies. No Grenada police are in evidence. "Now you're going to see a show," Sheriff Suggs Ingram tells Jack Nelson of the Los Angeles Times.
Under a bombardment of cherry bombs, rocks, and bottles we manage to reach the North side of the green. White men charge into us, beating people with pipes and sticks. Knowing we will be charged with felony assault if we fight back, we maintain nonviolent discipline. But we cannot hold our ground, and are forced to retreat. There are about 50 state troopers on either side of the whites, they are waiting to bust us if we hit back, but they do nothing to halt the white attackers. We fall back to the north side of the street surrounding the square. The attacks continue. One of the cops throws a tear gas bomb into our line.
We retreat in good order from the square heading back to Chat & Chew's. The mob follows. A line of troopers put themselves between them and us. They turn their backs to the mob and face us with their rifles resting on their hips as if protecting the whites from us. The crowd continues to throw their missiles at us over the heads of the cops. More than a dozen of us are injured and one hospitalized.
Wednesday, August 10. Again a rally at Chat's. The mob is again at Union & Commerce, this time armed with large sling shots which they used to shoot cherry bombs, chain links, and lead fishing sinkers over the heads of the troopers and into our rally.
Out of about 250 on the march uptown tonight, almost all are adult men. This is a first until now the majority of each march had been students and adult women. Tonight though, after the violent attack on the square yesterday, the men have turned out to protect the women and children. They are determined not to be driven from the square, to nonviolently take whatever has to be taken, but not to retreat from the green.
The march is led by an SCLC staff member who has come up from the SCLC convention and is in Grenada for the first time. (The SCLC direct action leaders who normally act as march captains are at the convention.) When we get to the square, this time the troopers, cops, and game wardens are out in force. Governor Johnson has ordered a stop to the terrible publicity that is giving Mississippi such a black eye. As the whites open up on us with the usual rocks, bottles, and cherry bombs, the police clear them from the square.
But the new march leader unfamiliar with the Grenada situation fears it is a trap and orders us to withdraw from the square. As the whites are forced out the south and east side of the square, we retreat to the north, leaving an empty square. There is great disappointment and frustration among the community men over leaving the square, they had worked their courage up to the peak, and now felt undercut. We never again have anywhere near that number of men on a march.
Thursday, August 11. The Grenada City Council passes an ordinance forbidding any gatherings on the green. (Earlier in the month the police had resurrected an old ordinance forbidding gatherings at the courthouse, but since voter registration is now being done at Chat & Chew's the courthouse is no longer our focus.)
There are few white hecklers apparently the "no audience" strategy is being tried again. The night march tries to get on the green but is blocked by a line of police.
Friday, August 12. We decide to make a test-case of the green ordinance. While the march circles around the green, 18 volunteers try to get on the green. They are repeatedly shoved off by the cops and eventually seven are arrested. As the rest of the march begins to leave the square, the line of troopers charge us, hitting people with their rifle butts. Half a dozen marchers are injured, including Emerald Cunningham, a 14 year old girl who had polio and is unable to run or dodge. The troopers beat her in the back with their rifles.
Sunday, August 14. Twenty people are arrested for trying to attend services at the white First Baptist Church. They are charged with "disturbing divine worship." SCLC field staff member Jim Bulloch is arrested and his car is fire-bombed while he in jail.
Harassment arrests increase. Twenty or more people are arrested on various charges over the next weeks. The nightly marches no longer try to hold rallies on the green (because of the ordinance) but instead we circle around the green singing freedom songs.
Sunday, August 21. Last attempt to integrate church services. After being refused we put up picket lines at the Baptist and Presbyterian churches.
Monday, August 22. The usual night march. It seems to us no different than any other march.
Tuesday, August 23. We hold our nightly mass meeting at Bellflower church as usual. The police surround the church, arresting people on mysterious warrants as they try to leave. Hosea Williams of SCLC is leading the meeting, and at the end he instructs everyone to exit in a mass group using all the doors and jumping out the windows to flood through the cops so as to limit the number of people they can bust. About a dozen are nabbed. After a few days in jail, there is a so-called trial in which an all-white jury convicts us of singing on the wrong side of the telephone building during the previous Monday night's march.
Wednesday August 24 Sunday, August 28. Voter registration, Blackout picketing, mass meetings, and night marches continue.
Monday, August 29. This is the first day to pick up and fill out "Freedom of Choice" forms for the court ordered school desegregation. In the morning, 300 students and parents march to the Negro high school to pick up the forms.
Wednesday, August 31. School registration day at Grenada's elementary and high school. More than 300 Negro kids register to attend these two schools which sit next to each other on South Line Street, not far from Bellflower church. Groups of white hecklers return to the square to harass the night march.
Thursday, September 1. By now, 450 Negro students have registered to attend the two white schools. This is an enormous number. Few Mississippi schools are integrated at all, and those that are usually only have half a dozen or less Negro students.
Few police or troopers in evidence at the night march. The number of white hecklers increases.
Friday, September 2. This was supposed to be the first day of school. But at the last minute the school board postpones it for 10 days because of "paper work." Nevertheless, the white high shcool plays its first football game. Some of the Negro kids who had registered to go to that school try to attend the game. They are beaten up and their car windows are smashed with baseball bats.
During the next 10 days before school opens, the white power structure wages a fierce campaign to convince Negro parents not to send their children to the white schools. Threatened by loss of jobs and evictions by white landlords, and fearing for the safety of their children, around 200 of the 450 kids who had registered for the white schools are withdrawn and re-registered at the Negro schools.
Meanwhile, the number of whites showing up at the square to harass and attack the night marches steadily increases as the first day of school draws nearer. Violence against those active in the Movement also increases.
Monday, September 5. SCLC field staff members J.T. Johnson and R.B. Cottenreader swear out an arrest warrant against a white man who attacked them while they were picketing Bloodworth's store. They are then arrested when their white assailant swears out a counter-warrant against them. Robert is attacked again when he is released on bail.
Tuesday, September 6. SCLC field staff member Bruce Hartford is attacked and beaten on the street while walking to Bellflower church. SCLC field staff member Willie Bolden is arrested when he tries to talk to the police about the escalating violence.
Thursday, September 8. The demands of July 9 are reformulated to reflect the growing understanding that the root issue is power political power and economic power.
Saturday, September 10. Whites begin marching around the square at the same time as our marches are scheduled. There are now two groups marching side by side around the square (but not, of course, in solidarity). The proximity of the two groups makes it easier for them to jump our marchers. SCLC staff members Alphonzo Harris and Mike Bibler are attacked.
Sunday, September 11. Tomorrow school opens. Large number of whites on the square are heckling and attacking the march. SCLC staff member R.B. Cottonreader is beaten. A white woman attacks SCLC staff member Lula Williams with an umbrella.
Monday, September 12. First day of school. A huge white mob surrounds Grenada's elementary and high school. Equipped with two-way radios, they bar all approaches. Radio-equipped scouts in pick-up trucks search for Negro students (grades 1-12) coming to school and direct the mob to attack them. There are few police in evidence and they do nothing to halt the violence. Some cars carrying Negro children manage to drop the kids off, but others are blocked. The majority of the 250 or so students are walking to school in ones and twos and they are set upon by the roving bands of whites who beat them with clubs, chains, bullwhips, and pipes. This is not a spontaneous mob, this is a military-style action organized and led by the KKK.
Less than half the 250 children manage to reach the schools, the rest, bruised, bleeding, and terrified retreat back to Bellflower Baptist church which now resembles a battle zone first-aid station more than a place of worship.
News reporters and photographers, white and Negro, are also viciously set upon. They too, bloody and battered, fall back to the church. "Some of the newsmen needed a cleaning," Constable Grady Carroll explaines to the New York Times a week later. "If they tell a lie, they need a whupping from anybody who wants to give it to them."
Around 9:00am, SCLC staff members lead the children in a march to try to reach the schools as a group and all are savagely attacked. Emerald Cunningham, who walks with a pronounced limp, can't run fast enough to escape. She is beaten down in the street, kicked, and clubbed with an iron pipe. A Klansman puts a pistol to her head and threatens to kill her if she dares go to the white school. The police who are watching the whole incident laugh. Emerald and some other children are hospitalized, as are some of the SCLC staff.
At noon the schools let out. The mob is still outside, waiting for the Negro children who had managed to get inside that morning. Before school is turned out, the teachers call all of the white girls to the office where they wait in safety. The Negroes (boys and girls) and the white boys are then dismissed into the mob. The Negro children trying to leave the schools are beaten and three more are hospitalized (one with a broken leg, one with fractured skull).
Singer Joan Baez and nonviolent activists Ira and Susan Sandperl are in Grenada to support the movement. They join SCLC and GCFM activists who are trying to rescue the kids and protest the inaction of the police. They participate in the marches and share the danger over the coming week. Lula Williamson is arrested for "assault" (because the white woman had attacked her with an umbrella the night before on the march) and held on high bail.
A huge white mob fills the square waiting to attack the nightly march. The state troopers promise that if we don't march they will protect the children the next day. In return for that promise we agree to cancel the march. We don't trust the troopers, but half the kids are still determined to go to school the next day (the other half are too terrified), and we have to do whatever we can to provide for their safety.
At a night meeting of the Grenada city council the "moderate" City Manager McEachin is fired. Presumably for not being more effective in suppressing the movement, or for not showing enough enthusiasm for mob attacks on children.
[Historic side note: Dianna Freelon, then 16, was one of the children attacked by the Klan mob. In 2004, Dianna Freelon-Foster was elected Mayor of Grenada in an election where two white candidates split the white vote. She served one term in office.]
Tuesday, September 13. Around 100 students assemble at Bellflower in the morning to be driven to the school in cars that have been assembled for that purpose (none try to walk). Many of the vehicles are attacked by the mob which once again surrounds the two schools. Ten more kids are injured and many cars damaged, but most of the students manage to get into the buildings. The state troopers turn their heads and ignore the attacks. The only person they arrest is SCLC staff member Major Wright who is observing their inaction. He is arrested for trespass. A civil rights lawyer, also there to observe, is beaten by a gang of whites called together by Constable Grady Carroll who he was talking to.
Meanwhile, the world-wide news reports and TV coverage of yesterday's mob attack on school children has brought intense pressure on Mississippi's Governor Johnson. He is forced to order the troopers to protect the children. The word goes out, and the mob dissipates.
At 3:00pm when school is scheduled to let out, Black adults and civil rights workers march from the church towards the schools so the students can join us and march back through the mob in a large group. In this way we can provide some protection from the mob which we assume is still lurking around the area. The troopers stop us. They have set up a perimeter and no one but students are now allowed within two blocks of the schools at any time. A swarm of journalists and TV cameras from around the world are recording their every action (and inaction). The troopers assure us that from now on they will prevent attacks on the children. We can see that the mob has dispersed, so we returned to the church. The kids make it safely home from school.
When our night march reaches the square that evening, we discover that there are no police or troopers present. Usually a number of both patroll the square. A mob of 500 whites is waiting for us. As we circle the square they throw stones, bottles, and pipes, and shoot their slingshots at us. After many of us have been injured, the troopers appear from a side street and get between us and the mob.
Wednesday, September 14. People are afraid to risk their cars driving kids to the schools and having the windows smashed. The cops noted down the license plates of those who did, and they have been harassed and ticketed. Our new strategy is to assemble at Bellflower and march with the children to school. There are 86 kids still willing to face the mobs. The march is stopped two blocks from the schools at the trooper's "perimeter." There are some white hecklers, but no mob. No one is attacked.
Thursday, September 15. School is canceled because all the officials (and us) are at a Federal Court hearing in Oxford before Judge Clayton.
Friday, September 16. Judge Clayton issues an injunction ordering the children protected. Now that the troopers appear to be protecting the students, 160 kids show up at Bellflower for the march to school. But 25 are sent home by school officials because of minor technicalities in their paperwork.
Over the next days some of those sent back are able to get enrolled, others not. As it settles out, about 150 Negroes manage to get enrolled in the two white schools (out of the 450 who had first asked for "Freedom of Choice" transfer). While 150 is only a third of the original number it is far greater than the number of Negroes attending any other integrated school in Mississippi.
Saturday, September 18. The FBI arrests 13 whites on conspiracy charges for organizing the attack on the children the first day of school. One of them is local Justice of Peace Ayers, who has jurisdiction over many of the cases of civil rights workers and activists arrested in Grenada.
The white mobs that harassed and attacked the night marches around the square are now gone. Either they've gone back to the "no audience strategy," or they're having trouble keeping their mobs mobilized.
Sunday, September 19. Dr. King addresses the mass meeting. There is a large turn-out, and more than 650 participate in the night march. Three times the normal 200 or so.
Over the next week, we continue to march the kids to school (some of whom are always turned away on various excuses), and pick them up with a return march. We hear that 300 local whites have signed a statement calling for an "end to violence" and also calling for an end to demonstrations and the Blackout of white-owned businesses.
Thursday, September 29. Pak n Sak market sues SCLC, the GCFM, three Negro churches, and all of the Negro taxi drivers for $960,000 of "lost business" due to the Blackout. They get an injunction against the Blackout.
Thursday, October 6. The 100th mass march of the Grenada Movement. We hold a rally at the courthouse in defiance of the ordinance forbidding rallies there. We leave when the police prepare to arrest us. J. McEachin is rehired as City Manager.
Over the following week we continue to hold nightly marches, but our numbers dwindle down to around 100 or so less than half what they had been during the September school crises. People are tired, worn out.
Saturday, October 8. For the first time, not enough people show up at the mass meeting to hold a march. The march is canceled. Over the next ten days, small marches of less than 100 are held, but twice there is no march because too few people show up.
Tuesday, October 18. Instead of a mass meeting and march there is an emergency meeting of parents to discuss what to do about the harassment the Negro children are enduring at the white schools. They are no longer being attacked by mobs outside the schools, but inside it is a daily struggle for survival and dignity. Almost half of the 150 or so who had managed to get enrolled have been driven out by physical attacks and indignities from the white students, harassment by teachers and Principals, and economic retaliation against their parents (loss of jobs, evictions, foreclosures, and so on). Around 40 of the kids have been expelled as "troublemakers." Whenever a Negro has a conflict with a white, the Negro is punished while the white goes free.
The parents meeting is sparked by two new incidents. In the Elementary school a Negro boy sat at a table in the cafeteria with some white students, the Principal ordered him to move, when he refused the Principal yanked him from his seat, ripping his jacket. High school student (and movement stalwart) Dorothy Allen is punched by a white boy, she hits him back and is taken to the Principal who commands her to bring her mother to school tommorrow. The meeting decides to send a delegation of parents along with Dorothy's mother to see the Principal, they will also to try to set up meetings between parents and teachers. Twenty of the 150 people present agree to be on the delegation.
Wednesday, October 19. The Principal refuses to talk to the delegation or set up any future meeting. He says he will talk to any individual parent about any individual problem, but he will not meet with any group. He refuses to admit that there is any sort of continuing problem.
The mass meeting that night is well attended. It decides to try again the next day and, if there is no success, to stage a protest walkout of the school on Friday. More than 200 join the night march to the square.
Thursday, October 20. The parents again try to talk to the Principal. He refuses.
Friday, October 21. At 10am the remaining 70 or so Negro students of the white schools walk out to protest the continuing harassment. A number of students at Negro schools walk out in sympathy. Later, another delegation of parents tries to talk to the Principal and superintendent but state troopers prevent them from reaching the campus.
Saturday, October 22. All off the children who walked out are suspended from school for ten days until Nov 1st.
Monday, October 24. We stage a morning protest march of more than 200 to the white schools. When stopped by state troopers the marchers kneel down to pray. All are arrested when they refuse to disperse. Those over 15 years of age are forced into open cattle trucks and taken to Parchman Prison an hour's drive away. Some of the younger kids are shipped to Greenville jail, an hour and a half away, while others are locked up in Grenada City and County jails. The very young kids are released. More kids walk out and start boycotting the Negro schools in solidarity.
After their arrest, SCLC staff members J.T. Johnson, Lester Hankerson, Major Wright, Herman Dozier, and Bill Harris are beaten by the troopers while in custody. The boycott of the Negro schools continues to grow.
Tuesday, October 25. Another 30 people are arrested when they try to picket the white schools. Some arrestees are shipped to Batesville and Oxford jails. School boycott grows.
Wednesday, October 26. Parents make protest march to the square. Less than 100 march because so many of the activists are now in various jails: Grenada City & County, Greenville, Batesville, Watervalley, Oxford, and Parchman Prison. School boycott continues.
Thursday, October 27. Parents again march in protest. 17 pickets are arrested. Federal Judge Clayton refuses to release the detainees on a Habeas Corpus motion but indicates a deal is being worked out. School boycott continues.
Friday, October 28. Police release all those under 18 years old on their own recognizance (that is, without bail). Others have been bailed out, leaving about 15 still in jail. The SCLC staff who were arrested remain in jail.
By now, all but a few hundred of the 2600 Negro students in Grenada County are boycotting school in sympathy.
Saturday, October 29. All those still in jail are bailed out. J.T. Johnson is shot at after mass meeting that night.
GRENADA MARCH #107
Echoing songs on the square
White breath in cold night air
Black shadows, two by two
Marching strong, me and you.
"Ohhh freedom, ohhhh freedom
ohhhh freedom over me...."
Beneath a lonely street light
Children singing out at night.
The mobs are gone, for this time
And tension eases down the line.
"...and before I'll be a slave
I'll be buried in my grave
and go home to my Lord
and be free-oh and be free..."
Standing silent round the square
Troopers watch with hard, cold stare.
"Niggers on the march again.
Damn! Will they never end?"
"...No more gassings, no more beatings
no more jailings, over me..."
Around, around, the square we stride
Cold air filled with freedom's pride.
We'll keep marching side by side
'till freedom gates are opened wide.
"...and before I'll be a slave
I'll be buried in my grave
and go home to my Lord
and be free-oh and be free."
It's quite on the square again
As one-oh-seven comes to end.
Proud, we march down Pearl Street
Back to church where we meet.
Monday, October 31. Court hearing begins in Oxford before Judge
Clayton about the school situation. Grenada school superintendent admits
the boycott numbers of the Negro schools:
There is no night march because it's Halloween (too dangerous).
Tuesday, November 1. Court hearing resumes in Oxford. All kids return to school. The practice of a march every night is discontinued in favor of marches as needed.
Wednesday, November 2. Hearing begins in Grenada court on the Pak n Sak lawsuit against the movement. The guy who is supposedly suing testifies that he knows none of the people he is suing, has never read the suit, does not know who wrote it, and knows of none of the incidents alleged in it. Clearly, he is just being used by the white power structure in an attempt to destroy the movement.
Court in Oxford on the school case continues throughout the week.
Lester Hankerson, one of the SCLC staff who was beaten by troopers while in jail, is taken to the hospital with internal bleeding.
Monday, November 7. Judge Clayton issues his order. Parents and students are prohibited from demonstrating at the schools or organizing boycotts. The school system is ordered to treat everyone equal regardless of race. Superintendent is ordered to set up meetings between parents and teachers. A complaint system is put into place to handle disputes. While this is not a total triumph, it is seen as a victory for the movement.
Tuesday, November 8. Election day. There are 1300 votes for Negro candidate Clifton Whitley, 3000 for white candidate James Eastland. For a county that had only a tiny handful of Negroes registered before the Meredith March a few months earlier, this is a big step forward. Over the months and years to follow, Negro voter registration and turnout will rise steadily.
Sunday, November 13. Coretta Scott King gives fundraising "Freedom Concert." Over 1,000 attend.
Thursday, November 17. Juvenile court for those under 13 who had been arrested. Charges dropped. Those over 13 plead "Not Guilty," no date set for trial.
Over the following weeks and months, there are few demonstrations but the Grenada County Freedom Movement digs in for the long haul organizing, mounting legal defense for those arrested, and continuing voter registration and political organization. Harassment of the Negro students in the white schools continues, but at a lower and more subtle level. By the end of the school year additional Negro students had been forced out, but Grenada still had the more Negroes attending formerly white schools than any other rural Mississippi county.
--Bruce Hartford © 1967, 2003