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A massacre survivor reflects on the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Bermanzohn, Sally Avery
June 4, 2015

Source: (2007) Radical History Review. 97(1): 102-109.

The Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission (GTRC), the first of its kind
in the United States, published its report on May 25, 2006. Will this project succeed
in establishing some basic truth about the 1979 Greensboro Massacre? Can it serve
as a model for other such projects in the United States?
On November 3, 1979, Ku Klux Klansmen and American Nazis opened fire on
union organizers and civil rights activists in Greensboro, North Carolina, killing
five close friends of mine. We were black and white radical activists who had deep
roots in the civil rights, Black Power, antiwar, and women’s liberation movements.
In the 1970s we became union organizers in textile mills and hospitals. Many of
us, myself included, were members of the Communist Workers Party. On that fateful
day, we wanted to protest the 1979 reemergence of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK)
in areas of North Carolina in which union drives were in progress. We planned a
spirited march through Greensboro, followed by a conference. Instead, the KKK
and Nazis attacked us as we were gathering to march; they killed Jim Waller, Sandi
Smith, Bill Sampson, Michael Nathan, and Cesar Cauce, who were all dynamic
and dedicated leaders in their twenties and thirties. Gunshots wounded ten others,including my husband Paul Bermanzohn, who was shot in the head and the arm,
permanently paralyzing his left side.
Twenty-six years later, a Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission
has reinvestigated these murders. Why a Greensboro truth commission? The basic
answer is government involvement in the 1979 murders. Officials covered up the
role of various state institutions in two criminal trials, leading to unanswered questions
that have polarized the Greensboro community for a generation. (Excerpt).


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