3 – The Greensboro Massacre – 1979
This infamous event resulted in the deaths of five people in Greensboro, North Carolina. Members of the Communist Worker’s Party (CWP) were among the most prominent participants in a ‘Death to the Klan’ march that occurred on November 3, 1979. As it was a planned march, the KKK knew when and where it would happen, but no one expected them to react in such a murderous fashion; or did they? There is a strong suggestion that the police were aware of the Klan’s plans but did nothing to stop them.
As was the case with the Baptist Church bombing, the Greensboro Massacre was the culmination of a long period of tensions. Earlier in the year, the CWP had moved the center of their focus to North Carolina in an attempt to organize black textile workers into unions. Predictably, this resulted in a direct clash with the local Klan. One of the main reasons why the CWP focused on black workers was because they failed to organized white textile workers in the state.
Hostility between the groups began to take a serious turn during 1979. The screening of Birth of a Nation in July angered CWP members who interrupted the movie. Tensions continued to rise as both groups exchanged taunts in the ensuing months. The CWP organized a march against the KKK on November 3. They choose Greensboro as the location because it had been the location of significant civil rights actions in the 1960s. The event was scheduled to begin in Morningside Homes, a predominantly black housing project, and planned to march to the Greensboro City Hall.
The CWP passed around flyers which called for radical, even violent opposition to the Klan. With this idea in mind, it would be surprising if the CWP didn’t believe the KKK would also resort to violence. The march was set to be an important local event even if it had passed off peacefully. Four camera teams from local TV news traveled to Morningside Homes to cover the march, but they couldn’t believe what happened next.
As the demonstrators came together to march, ten vehicles containing 40 members of the KKK and American Nazi Party drove around the group in an attempt to intimidate them. They were met with rocks from the protestors when suddenly, a shot was fired. Both sides claim the other group was responsible, but whoever was to blame, the white supremacists were guilty of the violence that followed.
They jumped out of the vehicles and opened fire on the crowd. After a brief but crazy gunfight, five protestors lay dead. The shocking allegation of police collusion with the Klan comes from the fact that a Greensboro police officer gave an informant named Edward Dawson a map of the route the night before. Dawson had infiltrated the KKK and was in one of the vehicles during the massacre. After an FBI investigation, five Klan members were charged with murder, but an all-white jury acquitted them. Once again, the Klan had got away with murder.