Dictionary.com defines a massacre as; the unnecessary, indiscriminate killing of a large number of human beings or animals, as in barbarous warfare or persecution or for revenge or plunder.
I have lived in Greensboro for all but 2 of my 55 years on this earth and have never known a massacre to have occurred here. Now I see where our City council has once again given in to a radical pressure group and approved the erection of a historical marker denoting the "Greensboro Massacre" that reportedly occurred on November 3, 1979. I just have one question; what massacre?
I was attending Elon College and had just stopped by my parents house the Saturday morning of this event when the rolling script on the bottom of the TV picture flashed the news of a shootout between the Communist Workers Party and the Ku Klux Klan. I was familiar with the communist's group because I had worked at Cone Mills the summer of 1977 and knew that was the group attempting to form a union of mill workers and had been handed a flyer when leaving work. North Carolina is a right to work state which meant the communists were acting in vain without a change in state law. Fortunately I was able to avoid any prolonged conversations with their representatives so I do not have first hand knowledge of their position on unionizing.
In July of 1979 there was an apparent confrontation between the CWP and the Ku Klux Klan in China Grove. Hard feelings and confrontational rhetoric which included threats of violence emanated from both groups. The animosity came to a head when the CWP organized a "Death to the Klan" event and sent a written invitation to the Klan to attend. The Klan accepted and arrived, a confrontation ensued that began with two by fours and escalated into a gunfight when CWP members opened fire and the Klan returned fire. Almost an equal amount of rounds were fired from both sides however the Klan weapons wounded several, with wounds resulting in death to five CWP members. To review; the CWP invited, the Klan accepted and both sides engaged in a shootout.
So does this event qualify as a "massacre"? Let's check our definition.
"The unnecessary" : Yes it was unnecessary and did not have to happen but the CWP for whatever reason decided they wanted and apparently needed to confront the KKK in person. So they sent written invitation to a death to the Klan march.
"Indiscriminate": the definition of indiscriminate is done at random or without careful judgement. Randomness certainly doesn't come into play here and though the judgement was stupid on both sides as they were certainly prepared for a violent encounter even if it escalated into weapons. Contingency plans such as these eliminate the possibility of any of the actions that day as being random.
"Barbarous warfare or persecution": barbarous is defined as savagely cruel; exceedingly brutal. If you consider shooting at each other "barbarous" then this could apply. Most historians use the word to describe uncivilized, torturous or vile acts such as dismemberment or beheading, killing of women and children or those that are unarmed. Persecution is defined as "hostility and ill-treatment, especially because of race, political or religious beliefs". Obviously both sides had differing political and probably religious beliefs. Race was not an overriding issue as the CWP contained members of many races and those killed were not African American. Also, it would stand to reason that if the CWP felt "persecuted" it would defy logic to invite your persecutor's to an event that you were proclaiming death to them.
"For revenge or plunder": revenge could have been a motivator for both sides but who was seeking revenge against who? Nothing of a material nature was gained by either side removing plunder from consideration.
This event does not meet the criteria to be described as a massacre. So what happened that day in 1979? I have one more definition for you.
"Gunfight": a hostile encounter in which antagonists with guns shoot at each other". The CWP and KKK certainly qualify as antagonists, planned an encounter and shot at each other. The event was planned and executed by the CWP for the specific intent of engaging the KKK in confrontation. This was stupid to invite an organization historically known for violence into a neighborhood that had nothing to do with either side. The KKK knew why they were invited and just as stupidly accepted and attended. Most of these people were not from Greensboro yet decided to expose our citizens to violence. Now the members of the CWP want to rewrite history to somehow paint a picture of innocence, devoid of any responsibility for their actions which clearly led to the violent ending that day. They try to convince us of this by hiding behind veils such as college professorships or the cloth. They attempt to conceal their true selves and attempt to promote a perception of being community activists when in fact they are merely participants in a dark day that they forced upon the citizens of Greensboro.
Now we give in to them by agreeing to a historical marker. There are some on our council that I believe just wants them to go away and agreeing to let them place this marker will close the door. No council, it won't! They will be back bullying you for something else. You have now entitled them to press forward with the next "give in" they can seek. What's more, it's a damn lie!!!
Are we going to place historical markers on the sight of every gunfight, shooting or other violent act that have no social meaning whatsoever? You just set the precedent for exactly that. You have glorified a gunfight, a criminal action committed against the citizens of Greensboro and the State of North Carolina. The worst part is that each one of the Council members that voted to approve this marker know the truth and in a cowardly manner gave in to the pressure of a very few.
Your actions are allowing a fictitious historical marker to be erected that depicts nothing more than a criminal event committed by both the CWP and KKK further damaging the reputation of our city. After 35 years it's time to put this to rest.
There was no massacre; there should not be a sign or marker of any kind! The members of the City Council that voted to allow this to happen should be ashamed.
post script; as a matter of record Councilmen Zack Matheny and Tony Wilkins voted "no" on this issue. Marc