Grenada Mississippi, 1966
Chronology of a Movement
See also Documents From the
terminology This was originally written in 1966 when the
preferred term was "Negro."]
Grenada County, population-18,400. The western portion of the
county dips down into the rich cotton country of the Delta, the 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 it 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 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
The next day, the Meredith March continues on it's way to 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, 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 people 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 has 27 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
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:
1 No one in Grenada discriminates
2 They have no intention of meeting with, or dealing
with, or ever giving-in to any pressure group.
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
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
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
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
Car roof buckles under the weight
of silhouetted shadows against the
Courage and song rise up from
the surrounding sea of unseen
engulfing us like a warm friendly
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
out of the agonizing blinding fog
to fall on helpless innocence.
Quite, echoing quite,
the damp Mississippi night closes
on homes strangely dark.
Black shadows peer from dark windows
as the Mars-men patrol their
temporarily conquered territory,
boots echoing off stony-faced
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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 non-violent 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
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.]
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
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 the adults march from the
church towards the schools so the students can join them 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
Thursday, September 15. School is canceled because all the
officials (and us) are at a Federal Court hearing in Oxford before Judge
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
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,
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
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
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:
Friday (the original walkout) 235
We agree to call off the school boycott on the promise of a resolution
of the issues.
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
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
--Bruce Hartford © 1967, 2003