Greensboro massacre

Greensboro massacre

The Greensboro massacre took place on November 3, 1979 in Greensboro, North Carolina, United States. Five marchers were shot and killed by members of the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party while in a protest. It was the culmination of attempts by the Communist Workers Party to organize mostly black industrial workers in the area.

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

Rally and attack

On the day in question, a rally and march of industrial workers and communists was planned in Greensboro against the Ku Klux Klan, then active in the area. The "Death to the Klan March" was to begin in a predominantly black housing project called Morningside Heights.cite web | title= Chronology of the November 3, 1979 Greensboro Massacre and its Aftermath | url= | publisher=The Prism | accessdate = 2007-09-27] During the rally, a caravan of cars containing Klansmen and members of the American Nazi Party drove by the housing projects. The Klansmen and Nazis left their cars and opened fire on with shotguns, rifles and pistols. Cauce, Waller, and Sampson were killed almost immediately. Smith was shot between the eyes when she peeked from her hiding place. Eleven others were wounded. One of them, Dr Nathan, later died from his wounds.cite news| author=Darryl Fears |title=Seeking Closure on 'Greensboro Massacre' |url= |publisher=Washington Post |date=2005-03-06 |accessdate=2007-09-27 ] Much of the armed confrontation was filmed by four local news camera crews.

Role of the police

One of the most questionable aspects of the shoot-out is the role of the police. Normally, police would 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 Nazi caravan to the site, but did not attempt tp intervene. Edward Dawson, a Klan member who had turned police informant, was in the lead car of the caravan. Two days prior to the march one of the Klan members went to the police station and obtained a map of the march and the rally. Bernard Butkovich, an undercover agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms later testified he was aware that Ku Klux Klansmen and members of the American Nazi Party unit he had infiltrated would confront the demonstrators. In previous testimony, the Nazis claimed the agent encouraged them to carry guns to the anti-Klan demonstration.cite news| |title=Agent Tells Of '79 Threats By Klan And Nazis |url= |publisher=The New York Times |date=1985-05-12 |accessdate=2007-09-27 ] This has led to accusations of police collusion in the shooting.

The Klansman and Nazis involved were not from Greensboro. They had in response to a challenge from the march organizers. Reports in the "Greensboro News and Record" indicated the police were not at the scene because the march organizers gave them an incorrect address on their parade permit. However, it now known that the Klan caravan was organized by a man later found to be a police informant, using the parade permit to guide the caravan to the correct location and in radio contact with the police while the caravan was forming and proceeding to the site. Furthermore, and police had been on the scene, but had been dismissed "for lunch," shortly before the attack.


Legal Proceedings

Forty Klansmen and Nazis were involved in the shootings; sixteen were arrested but only six were brought to trial.cite web | author = Mark Hand | title= The Greensboro Massacre | url= | publisher=Press Action|date = 2004-11-18 |accessdate = 2007-09-27] Two criminal trials resulted in acquittal of the defendants by all white juries.

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 without being attacked first. It 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 Commission also concluded that some activists in the crowd fired back after they were attacked.cite web | title= Truth Commission Blames Cops in ‘Greensboro Massacre’ | url= | publisher=The New Standard|date = 2006-06-02 |accessdate = 2007-09-27] Filmmaker Adam Zucker's 2007 documentary, " [ Greensboro: Closer to the Truth] ", examines the work of the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

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.


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.

* " [ Greensboro's Child] ". Directed by Andy Burton Coon. Independent. 2002. YouTube|YWWrlDu6KWw|6:02 minute excerpt of eyewitness interviews. Retrieved May 22, 2006.

* - Footage omits final 5:09 minutes of tape. Retrieved May 23, 2006.

* [ YouTube footage of the actual shootings]

External links

* [ Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission] . The 500+ page Final Report of the Commission, which examines the context, causes, sequence and consequences of Nov. 3, 1979, is available on this site in .pdf form.

;Articles and news reports
* [ "88 Seconds in Greensboro": Transcript.] PBS "Frontline". Reported by James Reston, Jr. Directed by William Cran. Original Airdate: January 24, 1983.

;Anniversary news reports
* [ Greensboro Set To Mark Deadly Anniversary: Five Killed, 11 Injured In 'Greensboro Massacre'] by Scott Mason and Kamal Wallace. WRAL. Posted: 11:25 a.m. EST November 3, 2003. Retrieved April 5, 2005.
* [ Remembering the 1979 Greensboro Massacre 25 years later] - Broadcast by Democracy Now! on November 18, 2004.
* [ Seeking Closure on 'Greensboro Massacre' Reconciliation Panel Convenes in N.C. to Address '79 Attack by Nazi Party, Klan] by Darryl Fears, "Washington Post". Sunday, March 6, 2005; Page A03. Retrieved April 17, 2005.


* [ Greensboro Justice Fund]
* [ Greensboro VOICES] Contains oral histories pertaining to November 3, 1979.
* [ Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission] Community organization to find out the truth about the Greensboro Massacre and to reconcile groups involved.

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