A Christmas Boycott That Labored

AS 1961 drew to a detailed, some whites within the Mississippi Delta dreamed of a “white” Christmas once they determined to maintain their black patrons away from the city of Clarksdale’s annual parade.

Their tone modified when the Coahoma County NAACP chapter led by civil rights activist Aaron Henry sponsored a serious boycott in the course of the 1961 Christmas procuring season. Downtown shops all relied closely on black marketeering, making the boycott each instant and lasting.

NAACP head of state Medgar Evers and Henry had met with President Kennedy over the summer time on the NAACP conference in Philadelphia. Nationwide board members traveled on a “freedom prepare” from Philadelphia to Washington, DC, the place they spoke to the president and others concerning the seriousness of their issues.

“President Kennedy listened to us fastidiously, was very cordial, and gave us a tour of the White Home,” Henry later wrote in his autobiography.

A number of months later, the mayor of Clarksdale determined that no Negro would take part within the native Christmas parade: his choice would lead to Clarksdale’s first main confrontation since 1955.

Aaron Henry and others have been shocked and offended by the mayor’s edict. It was custom for the black band to play on the finish of the parade, adopted by floats from their group. There gave the impression to be no cause for this choice, besides that the mayor “apparently resented the progress we have been making throughout the state,” Henry mentioned.

The announcement got here in November and was supported by the Chamber of Commerce. Henry and Evers referred to as for a boycott of downtown shops with the slogan, “If we will not parade downtown, we’re not doing downtown enterprise.” Handbills have been printed and a publication was despatched asking blacks to affix the boycott; retailers felt strain from the beginning.

The leaders of the white group wouldn’t agree with the black group and the boycott dragged on. Aaron Henry voiced the view of the black group when he mentioned it might go on without end except there have been actual modifications in hiring practices. When county lawyer Thomas H. (Babe) Pearson requested Henry to return to his workplace to debate the boycott,

“We met at his workplace at 7:30 the subsequent morning. He informed me he knew I used to be in cost, and he needed to inform me it was unlawful. He learn one thing from a regulation e-book, however did not clarify the way it was associated to the boycott, and I informed him that our legal professionals had suggested us to not break the regulation except we used threats, violence, or intimidation to attempt to get folks to affix in. Lastly, he informed me that he would put me in jail would cease if I didn’t use my affect to name off the boycott He didn’t clarify the authorized course of concerned in such an arrest and clearly relied on his capacity to place a Negro in jail at any time when he might needed to. I informed him he ought to simply because I wasn’t about to name it off.”

Aaron Henry would not budge, so Pearson referred to as Clarksdale Police Chief Ben Collins to return out of the aspect room and instructed him to “Take this nigga to jail.” The arrest was unlawful, as no warrant had been issued, “and I dedicated no crime of their presence, however I knew higher to not quarrel with an armed policeman. And I did not thoughts going to jail, as I believed it might lead to an intensification of the boycott,” Henry famous.

Once they bought to the jail, Henry stood within the foyer as a result of nobody was positive whether or not or not he could be booked and, if that’s the case, what fees he ought to face. Then seven extra civil rights leaders have been introduced in from Clarksdale and all have been incarcerated, regardless of the shortage of fees.

When Coahoma County Sheriff L. A. Ross arrived on the jail, he was indignant on the compelled detention and “genuinely outraged on the entire scenario.” Ross demanded an evidence from Pearson, who informed him the boycott was unlawful.

Two hours later, Henry and others have been lastly charged with commerce restraint and launched. After this, the boycott reached its peak. Merchants felt the financial squeeze as they misplaced half of their prospects. However Pearson had different concepts, and several other days later insisted that Henry and others be positioned “beneath tangible bond” of $2,000 every pending their look in court docket.

Initially, Clarksdale’s black leaders have been tried by a justice of the peace and located responsible of commerce restrictions. When the County Courtroom upheld the conviction, it was appealed to the Circuit Courtroom, which dominated that the petition have to be amended or Henry and others could be launched.

However no modification got here, and Henry and the others have been neither acquitted nor discovered responsible, with the bond cash held. “We have been out of jail, however not sure of our authorized standing,” Henry wrote.

Whereas Henry and others have been being arrested, one other group – all white – launched a boycott of their very own. The Mississippi State Legislature handed a decision “with hardly any disagreement” that no loyal Mississippian ought to store in Memphis, Tennessee, simply throughout the state line and fairly near Clarksdale.

Offended on the quiet desegregation of public lodging and different facilities in Memphis, the Mississippi legislature had already “distinguished itself,” wrote Tougaloo professor John Salter, “by publicly investigating situations at Jackson College Hospital, the place white and black youngsters their segregated wards and play collectively within the hallways.”

The Clarksdale boycott lasted for 3 years and finally abated. The passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 turned out to be “a dramatic option to finish it.” Steadily, the mechanization of agricultural labor got here to the Delta, and because the want for black labor diminished, the meanness of whites elevated.

On June 12, 1963, whereas returning residence, Medgar Evers was killed by an murderer’s bullet.

(Extract from “The place Rebels Roost, Mississippi Civil Rights Revisited”, Susan Klopfer)

Leave a Comment