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Discussion of the November 1979 Klan-Nazi Killings in Greensboro

November 14, 2017 @ 11:30 am - 1:00 pm

Join Professor Mike Sistrom’s history classes for a discussion of the 1979 Klan-Nazi killings in Greensboro, in which five Communist Workers Party members were killed and others injured.

Dr. Sistrom comments:

Our two guests will be Rev. Nelson Johnson and Lewis Brandon. In the late 1960s, Rev. Johnson was Greensboro’s most well-known “militant” from the Black Power era. He was one of the black and white Workers’ Viewpoint Organization (WVO)/Communist Workers Party (CWP) leaders of the effort to organize black and white textile workers in the Morningside neighborhood. the WVO/CWP sponsored the “Death to the Klan” rally that the Klan and American Nazi Party members attacked on November 3 1979, killing five and wounding others, including Rev. Johnson.  The Klan-Nazi killers escaped criminal penalty, but Rev. Johnson and other survivors won a civil settlement against the City of Greensboro, given evidence of the GPD’s collusion with the killers and negligence in preventing the attack. That settlement establish the Greensboro Justice Fund. Rev.Johnson later founded Faith Community Church, the Beloved Community Center, and lead the 2006 Greensboro Truth and Community Reconciliation Commission about the 1979 events. Mr. Brandon was involved in the Greensboro movement, even longer than Rev. Johnson was, from the initial 1960 sit-ins onward. Mr. Brandon was also a teacher at JC Price school. He now works for the Beloved Community Center and heads its grassroots history initiative. Mr. Brandon submitted the successful application for a North Carolina state highway historic marker for the Greensboro Massacre in 2015.

Rev. Johnson and Mr. Brandon know my students will have already studied Greensboro’s black freedom struggles up through the early 1970s and will have hopefully completed their assigned reading on the 1979 events before their visit. So, they’ll be assuming some prior knowledge of their audience. If you’d like to read some about the 1979 events and their legacies in Greensboro before the 14th, you might want to check out the NCPedia entry on the Death to the Klan March, the Greensboro Massacre Topical Essay at Civil Rights Greensboro-UNCG, and/or perhaps the companion web page to the GM Highway Marker
If you’re interested in reading some about the controversy surrounding the highway marker, you can read Historical Marker in Greensboro Causes Controversy, Jan. 30, 2015 or “Greensboro Massacre historical marker unveiled”, May 24, 2015. Or just ask me. I was on the NC Highway Historic Marker Commission when we approved the marker.
The events of November 1979 are still not “settled” history. There are questions of provocative, even armed, black militancy vs. violent White Supremacy, issues of economic class intertwined with race, how much the black community “wanted” or welcomed the WVO/CWP members into their community, the role of “state” power in providing or denying justice, and the willingness or not of a “Progressive” community like Greensboro to come to terms with and use its past, rather than hoping to forget or mythologize it. In other words, questions we ask today.


November 14, 2017
11:30 am - 1:00 pm
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Mike Sistrom
336-272-7102, ext. 5306


204 Proctor Hall West
815 W. Market St.
Greensboro, NC 27401 United States
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