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Friday, November 3rd, 2006 by

The following comes from This Day in Civil Rights History, written by Ben Beard and NewSouth editor Randall Williams:

On this day in civil rights history, Ku Klux Klansmen and Nazis killed five people in North Carolina, in what would become known as ���the Greensboro Massacre.���

Weeks earlier, the Workers��� Viewpoint Organization had planned an anti-Klan rally to be held in Morningside Homes, a black housing project in Greensboro. In the late 1970s, the WVO, a biracial organization, helped textile unions in North Carolina negotiate better working conditions. The WVO grew out of the civil rights and antiwar movements of the late 1960s as activists sought to continue their work in the post-civil rights era.

Under WVO auspices, poor black and white textile workers built a coalition to improve their situation. On occasion, the KKK threatened the union leaders and, as an act of defiance, the WVO planned a rally against the Klan. The activists were also planning to announce the new name of their organization: the Communist Workers��� Party.

The so-called ���Death to the Klan��� rally was to be a combination social protest, political gathering, and economic declaration. Learning of the event, members of the KKK and the American Nazi Party, both then active in middle North Carolina, planned a competing anticommunism event.

The anti-Klan rally began around 11 a.m. Soon afterwards, carloads of Klansmen and Nazis disrupted the rally. Television news cameras were present, and their film of the incident showed the armed Klansmen and Nazis getting out of their cars and, with guns drawn, approaching the anti-Klan parade, targeting members of the Communist Workers Party and firing point-blank at them. The entire incident lasted only a few minutes. At the end, five leaders of the rally lay dead���Caesar Cauce, Mike Nathan, Sandi Smith, Bill Sampson, and James Waller���with ten injured.
Survivors of the attack alleged a conspiracy, and with good reason. The local police, who were warned of the potential for trouble, were suspiciously absent at the time of the attack. Informants in the Klan had relayed information about the potential attack, but no one had done anything about it. In the subsequent state and then federal trials, however, the murderers were found not guilty on all charges. In a civil trial, the City of Greensboro paid some of the survivors a settlement without admitting any wrongdoing.

The Greensboro Massacre caused a national outrage and led to the formation of the National Anti-Klan Network (later the Center for Democratic Renewal). Some 100 civil rights, church, labor, and community organizations joined in the network. In the summer of 2004, Greensboro launched the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate the incident.

This Day in Civil Rights History is available from your favorite local or online book retailer, directly from NewSouth Books, or from Amazon.com.

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