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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with W. Horace Carter, January 17, 1976. Interview B-0035. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Threats from the Ku Klux Klan and their immediate impact

Carter describes the types of threats he received from the Ku Klux Klan after he began to openly criticize their organization and its tactics during the early 1950s. The threats ranged from economic threats against his newspaper to threats of physical violence against him, his family, and his home. Carter also describes the impact of such threats on his family and on the newspaper, arguing that while circulation went down, his opposition to the Klan generated nearly as many new readers as it lost.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with W. Horace Carter, January 17, 1976. Interview B-0035. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JERRY LANIER:
At the time were you threatened directly by the klansmen?
W. HORACE CARTER:
Just about every way that you can be threatened—and again, I don't want to be threatened as any great hero in the deal. But it was almost a daily occurrence that we had the threats: in the mail, put under the door of the print shop, under the windshield wiper of my car, as well as the telephone messages to my home. These were daily for several years.
JERRY LANIER:
Well, what type of threats were they? Please don't be modest; it's interesting to see the Klan making direct threats to someone like this.
W. HORACE CARTER:
Well, the threats were first, "You better get off our backs. You don't know what you're talking about. The Klan's down here to do a good job in Columbus and Overy counties, and if you don't get off our backs your house is going to burn, or you're going to find that you don't have any print shop one of these mornings." And then the more subtle kind of threats were those having to do with economics. They'd say, "You've got X number of advertisers in Tabor City now, but you're not going to have any if you keep this thing up against the Klan." And I know that they brought great pressure upon what few advertisers we had. Our situations then, as I often told me wife, was, "We came down here with nothing, and we don't have anything now. And so we can't be any worse off then we were [Laughter] when we came." That was the biggest, the only threat I worried as much about…. I worried more about that threat than I did the physical threats, because I felt like that if they had enough following they can go to one of the grocery stores that was helping keeping us in business, and they could put enough of his customers to go to that fellow and say, "You know, if this guy Carter doesn't quit running this Klan thing now, we're going to quit buying groceries from you." And they can squeeze you out of business pretty quick in a little town where you don't have but forty or fifty businesses to start with.
JERRY LANIER:
Were the children and the rest of your family threatened by the klansmen?
W. HORACE CARTER:
Well, at that moment I only had my one daughter who was very small, and so she was too young to realize any of the consequences. My wife was, with reason, nervous and upset over the entire time. I think she would have been very happy to have left Tabor City and never come back. The threats were general threats as to burning my home and print shop, or I was going to get it myself one of these nights (one of these floggings) if I didn't watch what we were saying. And the Grand Dragon himself came to see me; I think you might have read something about that.
JERRY LANIER:
Well, Mr. Carter, did these threats have an impact? Did your advertising go down?
W. HORACE CARTER:
We lost some advertising; we didn't have much, but we lost some of what we did have. But I'd have to say that generally my advertisers stuck with us reasonably well. Even some of my best advertisers, though, came to me and indicated that they'd like for me take it easy on the Klan, because they were being pressured not to advertise with us. I still appreciate the fact that enough of them hung with us that we managed to survive.
JERRY LANIER:
Well, was your circulation affected? I don't guess that's quite so important, but it would seem to be an indicator of Klan strength, perhaps, anyway.
W. HORACE CARTER:
We were so young at the time that our circualtion was minor anyway—our newspaper itself was so young at the time. But we lost some, and the ones that we lost, you know they made a big deal out of it. They'd write you or come by and call you or something, and say, "I want my name taken off, because you're criticizing the Ku Klux Klan." But in all honesty I would say we probably picked up as many as we lost from people who … wouldn't come out and talk for the Klan or against the Klan, but at least they wanted to see what they were doing—curiosity if nothing else. So I don't feel that we actually lost circulation because of it, although obviously we had some who cancelled subscriptions and didn't want the paper anymore. But we also had some who read it because of what we were saying.