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Greensboro massacre

The Greensboro massacre occurred on November 3, 1979 in Greensboro, North Carolina, United States. Five protest marchers were shot and killed by members of the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party. The protest was the culmination of attempts by the Maoist Workers Viewpoint Organization to organize mostly black industrial workers in the area.[1]

The marchers killed were: Sandi Smith, a nurse and civil rights activist; Dr. James Waller, president of a local textile workers union who ceased medical practice to organize workers; Bill Sampson, a graduate of the Harvard School of Divinity; Cesar Cauce, a Cuban immigrant who graduated magna cum laude from Duke University; and Dr. Michael Nathan, chief of pediatrics at Lincoln Community Health Center in Durham, North Carolina, a clinic that helped children from low-income families.


[edit] Rally

Hostility between the groups flared in July 1979 when protesters disrupted a screening of the 1915 epic, Birth of a Nation directed by D. W. Griffith, a cinematographic portrayal of the formation of a Ku Klux Klan. Taunts and inflammatory rhetoric were exchanged during the ensuing months. On November 3, 1979 a rally and march of industrial workers and Communists was planned in Greensboro against the Ku Klux Klan. The Death to the Klan March was to begin in a predominantly black housing project called Morningside Homes. Communist organizers publicly challenged the Klan to present themselves and "face the wrath of the people".[2] During the rally, a caravan of cars containing Klansmen and members of the American Nazi Party drove by the housing projects where the Communists and other anti-Klan activists were congregating. Several marchers began to attack the Klansmens' cars with small wooden sticks or by throwing rocks. According to Frazier Glenn Miller, the first shots were fired from a handgun by an anti-Klan demonstrator.[3] Klansmen and Nazis fired with shotguns, rifles and pistols. Cauce, Waller and Sampson were killed at the scene. Smith was shot in the forehead when she peeked from her hiding place. Eleven others were wounded. One of them, Dr. Michael Nathan, later died from his wounds at a hospital.[3] Most of the armed confrontation was filmed by four local news camera crews.

[edit] Role of the police

One of the most questionable aspects of the shoot-out is the role of the police. Police would normally have been present at such a rally. However, no police were present, which allowed the assailants to escape. A police detective and a police photographer did follow the Klan and neo-Nazi caravan to the site, but did not attempt to intervene. Edward Dawson, a Klansmen turned police informant,[1] was in the lead car of the caravan.[3] Two days prior to the march, one of the Klansmen went to the police station and obtained a map of the march and the rally.[2] Bernard Butkovich, an undercover agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATFE) later testified that he was aware that Klansmen and members of the American Nazi Party unit he had infiltrated would confront the demonstrators. In a previous testimony, the neo-Nazis claimed the agent encouraged them to carry firearms to the anti-Klan demonstration.[4]

[edit] Aftermath

[edit] Legal proceedings

Forty Klansmen and neo-Nazis, and several Communist marchers were involved in the shootings; sixteen Klansmen and Nazis were arrested and the six best cases were brought to trial first.[1] Two criminal trials resulted in the acquittal of the defendants by all-white juries.[5] However, in a 1985 civil lawsuit the survivors won a $350,000 judgment against the city, the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party for violating the civil rights of the demonstrators.[6]

[edit] Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission

In 2005, Greensboro residents, inspired by post-apartheid South Africa, initiated a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to take public testimony and examine the causes and consequences of the massacre; the efforts of the Commission were officially opposed by the Greensboro City Council.

The Commission determined that Klan members went to the rally intending to provoke a violent confrontation, and that they fired on demonstrators. In addition, the Commission found that the violent rhetoric of the Communist Workers Party and the Klan contributed in varying degrees to the violence, and that the protesters had not fully secured the community support of the Morningside Homes residents, many of whom did not approve of the protest because of its potential for violent confrontation.

The Commission also found that the Greensboro Police Department had infiltrated the Klan and, through a paid informant, knew of the white supremacists' plans and the strong potential for violence. The informant had formerly been on the Federal Bureau of Investigation's payroll but had maintained contact with his agent supervisor. Consequently, the FBI was also aware of the impending armed confrontation.[7]

The Commission further established that some activists in the crowd fired back after they were attacked.[8] Filmmaker Adam Zucker's 2007 documentary, Greensboro: Closer to the Truth, examines the work of the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

[edit] In popular culture

The British band Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark wrote the track "88 Seconds in Greensboro" about the incident. It was on their album Crush and was the B-side for the U.K. version of the single for "If You Leave".

Another British band, Pop Will Eat Itself, has a track called "88 Seconds... & Still Counting", from their 1990 album Cure For Sanity, which also mentions the incident.

Greensboro band The Othermothers featured a track about the incident, "88 Seconds (I Wanna Go To The Rodeo)" on their 1985 EP "No Place Like Home".

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b c Mark Hand (2004-11-18). "The Greensboro Massacre". Press Action. http://www.pressaction.com/news/weblog/full_article/hand11182004/. Retrieved 2007-09-27. 
  2. ^ a b "Chronology of the November 3, 1979 Greensboro Massacre and its Aftermath". The Prism. http://www.ibiblio.org/prism/jan98/chron.html. Retrieved 2007-09-27. 
  3. ^ a b c F. Glenn Miller (2005-03-06). "A White Man Speaks Out". http://whty.org/book/06.htm. Retrieved 2010-08-25. 
  4. ^ "Agent Tells Of '79 Threats By Klan And Nazis". The New York Times. 1985-05-12. http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F00D1EFA3E5F0C718DDDAC0894DD484D81&n=Top%2fReference%2fTimes%20Topics%2fOrganizations%2fK%2fKu%20Klux%20Klan. Retrieved 2007-09-27. 
  5. ^ "Acquittal in Greensboro". New York Times. April 18, 1984. http://www.nytimes.com/1984/04/18/opinion/acquittal-in-greensboro.html. Retrieved 2009-08-15. 
  6. ^ "Civil Convictions In Greensboro". New York Times. June 9, 1985. http://www.nytimes.com/1985/06/09/weekinreview/the-nation-civil-convictions-in-greensboro.html. Retrieved 2009-08-15. 
  7. ^ Bermanzohn, Sally Avery (Winter 2007). "A Massacre Survivor Reflects on the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission". Radical History Review (97): 103. "In sum, the GPD instigated and facilitated the attack with the knowledge of federal agents in the FBI and the ATF". 
  8. ^ "Truth Commission Blames Cops in 'Greensboro Massacre'". The New Standard. 2006-06-02. http://newstandardnews.net/content/index.cfm/items/3245. Retrieved 2007-09-27. 

[edit] Further reading

  • Bacigal, Ronald J., and Margaret Ivey Bacigal. "When Racists and Radicals Meet." Emory Law Journal 38 (Fall 1989).
  • Bryant, Pat. "Justice Vs. the Movement." Radical America 14, no. 6 (1980).
  • Eastland, Terry. "The Communists and the Klan." Commentary 69, no. 5 (1980).
  • Institute for Southern Studies. "The Third of November." Southern Exposure 9, no. 3 (1981).
  • Parenti, Michael, and Carolyn Kazdin. "The Untold Story of the Greensboro Massacre." Monthly Review 33, no. 6 (1981).
  • Ray O. Light Group. "'Left' Opportunism and the Rise of Reaction: The Lessons of the Greensboro Massacre." Toward Victorious Afro-American National Liberation: A Collection of Pamphlets, Leaflets and Essays Which Dealt In a Timely Way With the Concrete Ongoing Struggle for Black Liberation Over the Past Decade and More pp.249'260. Ray O. Light Publications: Bronx NY, 1982.
  • Bermanzohn, Sally Avery. Through Survivors' Eyes: From the Sixties to the Greensboro Massacre. 400 pages, 57 illustrations, index. Vanderbilt University Press; 1st edition (September 1, 2003). ISBN 0-8265-1439-1.
  • Waller, Signe. Love And Revolution: A Political Memoir: People's History Of The Greensboro Massacre, Its Setting And Aftermath. London & New York: Rowman & Littlefield. 2002. ISBN 0-7425-1365-3.
  • Wheaton, Elizabeth. Codename GREENKIL: The 1979 Greensboro Killings. 328 pages. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1987. ISBN 0-8203-0935-4.
  • "Lawbreakers: The Greensboro Massacre" The History Channel. Lawbreakers Series. Video Cassette. 46 minutes. Color. 2000. Broadcast October 13, 2004.

[edit] External links

Articles and news reports
Anniversary news reports

The Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission is charged in its mandate with seeking the truth surrounding Nov. 3, 1979, as a means of fostering reconciliation and healing in the community. The Commissioners have only begun to hear from people in the community, but they already have learned several lessons. First, they have learned that multiple perspectives exist within the community on the truth surrounding Nov. 3, 1979. Differing perspectives exist even within the obvious groupings of class, gender, politics and worldviews. Second, they have learned that many myths continue to cloud the "truth" about that day. Furthermore, the commissioners suspect that it is precisely because of these myths that Nov. 3 continues to effect the quality of economic, social, political, spiritual and educational life in Greensboro. The Commission will be relying upon statements from individuals of all perspectives as well as news, legal, and other government documents to discern exactly what happened on November 3, 1979.

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