#TBT: Today Marks 37 Years Since the Greensboro Massacre

By Sameer Rao Nov 03, 2016

On this day in 1979, five people were killed in a confrontation between White supremacists and left-wing anti-racist activists supporting Black textile workers in Greensboro, North Carolina.

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro maintains an extensive database of primary and secondary sources on what’s now known as the Greensboro Massacre. Many reports indicate that the massacre was precipitated by multiple clashes between the Maoist-leaning Communist Workers’ Party (CWP) and White supremacists from the local Ku Klux Klan (KKK) chapter and American Nazi Party (ANP). CWP was in Greensboro to support organizing efforts by predominantly Black, local textile workers.

Reports say a caravan of White supremacists arrived at a CWP-organized "Death to the Klan" rally in an poor Black community and opened fire on protesters. Two of the five killed were people of color: Sandra Neely Smith, student body president at local HBCU Bennett College; and Cesar Cauce, a Duke alumnus and Cuban immigrant. 

State and federal trials of KKK and ANP members ended in acquittals by all-White juries. Survivors filed a civil suit with the Christian public policy-focused Christic Institute in 1980, accusing the White supremacist organizations of civil rights violations. They also accused the local police department of collusion with the KKK. That suit resulted in survivors receiving $350,000 in damages from the groups, department and city. 

Several survivors joined a hundreds-strong march in 2004 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the massacre. Without support or authorization from city government, a community group called the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission started an investigation that year. The conclusion?Police and the FBI knew about the possibility of violence ahead of time.

North Carolina state and Greensboro City Council acknowledged the massacre with a highway memorial, announced in May 2015.