Stories of the Greensboro massacre

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Tiffany George Butler Quaye (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Thomas Jackson

Abstract: The dawn of the 1980s proved to be a troubling period in many southern cities in America because of racial conflict, class inequities, and frayed politics. These tensions often overlapped and, at times, were fatal. One of the most tragic examples of extreme racial violence occurred in Greensboro, North Carolina, on November 3, 1979, when the multi-racial Communist Workers Party (CWP) attended a demonstration to protest against the notorious Ku Klux Klan (KKK). The procession, referred to as a "Death to Klan" march, was scheduled to begin in a public housing, predominately black working-class community called Morningside Homes. As the marchers were gathering, a group of Nazis and Klansmen drove through the protest site in a nine-car caravan and unloaded eighty-eight seconds of gunfire. As a result, five people were killed including one African American woman, three Caucasian men, and a Cuban American male, all of whom were a part of the CWP. This event, which was dubbed the 1979 Greensboro Massacre, has remained a contentious topic over the past thirty years. However, while the story appears to be straightforward, it will be demonstrated through this study that it is more complex than it appears. This work will present this one event through the lens of the personal stories of those who were directly involved in the tragedy. There were four main groups: the Communist Workers Party, the Ku Klux Klan, the Greensboro Police Department, and the residents of Morningside Homes. They all have positions within the story of the 1979 Greensboro Massacre, and when considering their interpretations, it is clear that there is no such thing as a single truth of this event. In fact, there are multiple truths. This work, however, is not relativistic on the issue of responsibility for the violence. Where possible, the perspectives of each group have been interwoven with the "facts" given in the criminal and civil trials as well as FBI files. What has become clear is that, with the exception of the residents, each party had a responsibility for the 1979 tragedy. This study will discuss the realities of each group at the time the massacre happened, what they think now about the decisions that were made by those who were involved, and the way they continue to understand and recall this event. How the people who took part in the 1979 Greensboro Massacre "remember" is not only important for how one may view and understand the murders in years to come, but it is also important for putting to rest many of the misunderstandings and unsubstantiated claims that are often associated with the event. By way of the evidence, this emotionally driven topic will reveal how all of those involved in that fateful November conflict felt threatened, were victimized, and have often been misinterpreted.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2012
Greensboro, North Carolina, Communist Workers Party, Ku Klux Klan, Shooting, Violence
Greensboro (N.C.) $x Race relations $x History $y 20th century
Riots $z North Carolina $z Greensboro $x History $y 20th century
African Americans $x Civil rights $z North Carolina $z Greensboro
Civil rights demonstrations $z North Carolina $z Greensboro

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