Documenting the American South

Doc South header logo Home
Commemorative Landscapes of North Carolina
Commemorative Landscapes of North Carolina
Commemorative Landscapes banner
  • Monument Name

    1979 Greensboro Massacre, Greensboro

  • Type

    Grave

  • Subjects

    Historic Protest Figures

    Tragedy

  • City

    Greensboro

  • County

    Guilford

  • Description

    The grave marker for those killed in the 1979 Greensboro Massacre is a large tablestone with a flat top and concave shoulders on a single base. Inscriptions appear on both sides.

  • Inscription

    Rear of tombstone: LONG LIVE THE / COMMUNIST WORKERS PARTY 5 / NOV. 3. THE CRIMINAL MONOPOLY CAPITALIST CLASS, WITH GOVERNMENT / AGENTS, KLAN AND NAZIS, MURDERED JIM WALLER, CESAR CAUCE, MIKE NATHAN, / BILL SAMPSON, AND SANDY SMITH. HEROICALLY DEFENDING THE PEOPLE, THE 5 / CHARGED GUNFIRE WITH BARE FISTS AND STICKS. WE VOW THIS ASSASSINATION / WILL BE COSTLIEST MISTAKE THE CAPITALISTS EVER MADE, AND THE TURNING / POINT OF CLASS STRUGGLES IN THE U.S.

    THE CWP 5 WERE AMONG THE STRONGEST LEADERS OF THEIR TIME. THEIR DEATHS / MARKED AN END TO CAPITALIST STABILIZATION (1950 – 1970s), WHEN AMER- / ICAN WORKERS SUFFERED UNTOLD MISERY, YET OVERALL REMAINED DORMANT / FOR LACK OF THEIR OWN LEADERS. IN 1980, THE DEEPEST CAPITALIST CRISIS EVER, / THE WORKING CLASS WAS AWAKENING.

    THE CWP 5 LIVED AND DIED FOR ALL WORKERS, MINORITIES AND POOR: FOR A / WORLD WHERE EXPLOITATION AND OPPRESSION ARE ELIMINATED AND ALL MANKIND / FREED- -THE NOBLE GOAL OF COMMUNISM. THEIR DEATHS, A TREMENDOUS LOSS / TO CWP AND TO THEIR FAMILIES, ARE A CLARION CALL TO THE U.S PEOPLE TO / FIGHT FOR WORKERS’ RULE. IN THEIR FOOTSTEPS, WAVES OF REVOLUTIONARY / FIGHTERS WILL RISE AND JOIN OUR RANKS.

    WE WILL OVERTHROW THE CRIMINAL RULE OF THE MONOPOLY CAPITALIST / CLASS! VICTORY WILL BE OURS! / NOV.3 1980 CENTRAL COMMITTEE, CWP. USA

    FIGHT FOR REVOLUTIONARY / SOCIALISM AND WORKERS’ RULE Front of tombstone: COMMUNIST WORKERS PARTY 5 / [Top center] JIM WALLER / CENTRAL COMMITTEE MEMBER / PRESIDENT LOCAL 1113T ACTWU / PRESIDENT TRADE UNION EDUCATIONAL / LEAGUE / [Left column, top] CESAR CAUCE / WRITER FOR WORKERS VIEWPOINT / DUKE HOSPITAL WORKERS / ORGANIZATION / [Left column, bottom] BILL SAMPSON / WRITER FOR WORKERS VIEWPOINT / PRESIDENT WHITE OAK ORGANIZING / COMMITTEE / [Right column, top] MIKE NATHAN / CHIEF ORGANIZER FOR MEDICAL / SUPPORT TO LIBERATION FIGHTERS / IN ZIMBABWE / REVOLUTIONARY DOCTOR / [Right column, bottom] SANDY SMITH / FOUNDER YOUTH ORGANIZATION / FOR BLACK UNITY / PRESIDENT REVOLUTIONARY ORGANIZ- / ING COMMITTEE / (BURIED IN PIEDMONT, S.C.)

    LIVE LIKE THEM / DARE TO STRUGGLE DARE TO WIN

  • Custodian

    Maplewood Cemetery, City of Greensboro

  • Dedication Date

    November 3, 1980

  • Decade

    1980s

  • Geographic Coordinates

    36.071000 , -79.761210 View in Geobrowsemap pin

  • Supporting Sources

      Brophy, Alfred. “1979 Greensboro Massacre: Historical Marker?” The Faculty Lounge (blog), January 23, 2015, (accessed April 13, 2017) Link

      Jovanovic, Spoma. Democracy, Dialogue, and Community Action: Truth And Reconciliation In Greensboro (Little Rock, Arkansas: University of Arkansas Press, 2012), Link

      Killian, Joe. "Nov. 3, 1979: A Day That Still Divides City,” News & Record (Greensboro, NC), January 25, 2015, (accessed April 13, 2017) Link

      Killian, Joe. “Beloved Center: Keep ‘Massacre',” News & Record (Greensboro, NC), January 31, 2015, (accessed April 13, 2017) Link

      Schutz, J. Christopher and Stoesen, Alexander R., 2006. “'Death to the Klan' March,” NCPedia.org, (accessed April 14, 2017) Link

      “Greensboro Massacre 1979 (Short Documentary),” News & Record (Greensboro, NC), January 23, 2015, (accessed April 13, 2017) Link

  • Public Site

    Yes

  • Materials & Techniques

    Granite

  • Subject Notes

    On November 3, 1979 the Communist Workers Party (CWP) organized a "Death to the Klan" March in Greensboro that evolved into a violent showdown between members of the CWP, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), and a neo-Nazi group. Similar marches had occurred that year in April at Winston-Salem and in July at China Grove, but neither of them saw gunfire.

    Only four police officers were assigned to accompany the demonstrators, as authorities assumed that a "low profile" would avoid trouble. The police were not present when several vehicles packed with Klansmen arrived before the noon march was to begin. The shooting began at 11:23 a.m. and five CWP members were killed. The local media, in response to provocative CWP press conferences, were on the scene though and TV cameras provided a record of the violence.

    Despite TV footage of the day’s events the 1980 state trial of the KKK and Nazi Party assailants brought an acquittal from the local all-white jury. Three years later, following an extensive investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation a federal grand jury indicted nine of the KKK and Nazi suspects for conspiracy to violate the marchers' civil rights. The 1984 federal trial also with an all-white jury found them not guilty.

    Three of those who died were white and one Hispanic. They were buried a few blocks from where they were killed in an African-American cemetery. Sandy Smith the one African-American who died was buried in South Carolina.

  • Controversies

    The proposed inscription was opposed by the Greensboro City Council who cited a new ordinance prohibiting political messages on monuments in city owned cemeteries. The North Carolina American Civil Liberties Union intervened on behalf of the four widows. They successfully argued that the prohibition was a violation of free speech rights.

    In 2015 a NC Highway Historical marker was proposed. The wording again caused debate. Some city commissioners spoke against it because they objected to the word "massacre" as part of the proposed language. One council member thought the word would give the wrong idea about what happened. Another didn’t think that word presented a positive image of Greensboro. These council members thought the word “shooting” or “shootout” would be more appropriate. The city commissioners voted 7-2 to use the word massacre.

  • Location

    The memorial is located in Maplewood Cemetery, 235 Bingham St, Greensboro, NC.

  • Landscape

    The cemetery is located in a residential area, behind a metal wire fence. The memorial grave marker is surrounded by graveyards.

  • Death Space

    Yes

Know anything else about this monument that isn't mentioned here? If you have additional information on this or any other monument in our collection fill out the form at the Contact Us link in the footer. Thank you.