There were, in fact, a number of mobster
groups operating in
Cairo, not only running bootlegged
liquor but, also operating profitable slot machine rackets. The various
groups brought more violence to the city, as the
gangsters tried to squeeze out their
rivals, smashing slot machines, firebombing cars, and killing each other.
On July 19, 1950 $20,000 worth of gambling equipment was confiscated from
simultaneous raids on six night clubs and taverns in or near
Cairo. Just a month later, at the
height of the gambling raids, five State Police were charged with theft of
$150 from slot machines confiscated during a raid in
Over the years,
began to decline due to the violence and the decrease in river trade. This decline;
however, would not lead to
ultimate demise – instead, it was racism.
The first major push
for racial equality occurred in 1946 when black teachers filed a
lawsuit in federal court to secure equal pay. When the case was argued
the same year by famed attorney, Thurgood Marshall, the judge and
defense counsel continuously referred to Marshall as a "boy." Defense
counsel then went on to explain to the court how a comparable case in
Tennessee had been handled by a distinguished attorney who knew what
he was doing, unlike the "boy" in this case. When the Defense counsel
had completed his pontificating speech, Marshall quietly stood up and
thanked counsel for the compliments, then informed the court that he
was the brilliant attorney who had handled the case in Tennessee.
Six years later, in
1952, efforts were begun to integrate
Cairo's schools but, separate
black schools would not be abolished until years later in 1967.
1960, the town supported only about 9,000 people. That number would,
unfortunately, drop more drastically over the next few decades, as racial
tensions in the town escalated into a full-blown “war.”
this time, the old scars of racism had hardened, and
Cairo's racial divide
was starkly drawn. The city's black citizens couldn't get work in
white-owned businesses and when rural whites from
were hired instead of local blacks, the African-Americans rebelled. By
1962, local freedom movements were breaking out in communities all over
the country, though they were seldom reported by the national media.
city facilities were completely segregated, including public housing, local
parks, and seating in the courthouse. Almost all public and private
offices employed only whites. During this time, the public swimming pool became a “private club,” in
order to keep out the black population. Requiring a “club” membership
card to enjoy the cool waters of the pool, a large group of
Civil Rights activists demonstrated at the pool in 1962, which spawned a white
racist to deliberately drive his pickup truck into the demonstration,
severely injuring a young African-American girl. The segregated swimming
pool was finally closed in 1963 to avoid integration.
about the same time, a
demonstration occurred at the local roller skating rink to integrate the
facility. When the group arrived; however, the skating rink owners had
locked the doors, and the KKK was holding a meeting inside. Someone had
stuck a note in the door with an ice pick that said, "No n____ here!"