home ||| current issue ||| past stories
about The Prism ||| volunteers ||| other sites

Chronology of the November 3, 1979 Greensboro Massacre and its Aftermath


Prior History

Members of what would become the Communist Workers Party (CWP) worked in textile mills and organized coworkers; helped in neighborhood community organizing in Greensboro; and joined with other groups in fighting injustice with such acts as the China Grove confrontation with the Ku Klux Klan (KKK).

Meanwhile, in spite of the efforts of anti-racism groups and individuals, the Klan (and the American Nazi Party) are gaining membership and influence. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms of the US Treasury Department recruited Edward Dawson as an agent to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan, ostensibly as an informant.

Prelude to November 3

One of the activities that was chosen to assist in both community organizing and anti-racism was a "Death to the Klan" parade and rally in Greensboro.

The march and rally were planned and duly permitted with the Greensboro Police. The rally was scheduled for the Morningside Heights housing project, one of the neighborhoods in Greensboro with an active community organization.

Two days prior to the march, which had been publicized as much as possible, of course, one of the Klan members went to the police station to obtain the map of the march and the rally.

November 3

While the march was in progress, the Klan/Nazis, with the leadership of Edward Dawson, loaded several car trunks with firearms and headed for the rally site in a caravan of nine cars. As they neared the rally site, a Greensboro Police cruiser became the tenth car in the motorcade. Meanwhile, Greensboro Police dispatcher(s) ordered the other police assigned to the rally to go on a break.

When the Klan/Nazis arrived, they pulled up to the curb in a group, alighted from the cars, calmly went to the trunks, removed their weapons, and began firing into the crowd of demonstrators. No police intervention was forthcoming. Contrary to the popular view of the incident, this was not a shootout: only one demonstrator had a firearm (a pistol), and only one round was fired from it, hitting no one. Four demonstrators died at the scene, including one who was shot between the eyes as she looked out from cover; several were wounded, including one who died three days later, and one who is paraplegic to this day. Since all of this was recorded on video tape by a local news camera operator, there"s not much doubt about who did what to whom, when.

Following the massacre (which seems an appropriate description) the Klan/Nazis got back in their cars and sped away. There was no police intervention.

The Aftermath

Following the massacre, the survivors of the group of organizers declared themselves as members of the Communist Workers Party (CWP). The fifth victim to die, Michael Nathan, joined the CWP from his hospital bed.

Some of the responsible members of the assassination team were soon apprehended but, since the demonstrators were now "communists", their trial for murder resulted in acquittals. The survivors then brought wrongful death suits against the Klan/Nazis and the city of Greensboro, resulting in a judgment for over $300,000. This judgment was the origin of the Greensboro Justice Fund.


home ||| current issue ||| past stories
about The Prism ||| volunteers ||| other sites

Send comments to prism@sunsite.unc.edu.