Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Kojo Nantambu, May 15, 1978. Interview B-0059. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Mixed support for the students in the wider African American community

Because caravans of whites continued to harass the black neighborhoods, the students erected barricades. While Nantambu remembers that most of the African American community supported the students, a few did not, and as a result, they were evicted from Gregory Congregational Church for a few hours. When the church trustees allowed them to return, a few of the young men organized to patrol the streets so as to protect the church.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Kojo Nantambu, May 15, 1978. Interview B-0059. 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

LARRY THOMAS:
What did you think about the barricades? Do you think that was a good move?
KOJO NANTAMBU:
It was a good move. If it hadn't been for the barricade, I'm quite sure that we'd have lost ten, twelve, or more brothers there at the church because white folks were coming through in caravans and in cars--carloads of people--up the street trying to turn, to come around the front of the church. They probably would have come to the front of the chruch and had a shoot-out with the brothers, but the barricades were there. They were concrete, those big five-feet conduits that the city has--the big ones. That's what we used as a blockade in the street--and some logs that we found. Like I was saying about that Saturday--the white man was shooting at us, and everybody was running and hiding and stuff like that. One of the members of the church came up there and told us to get out ...
LARRY THOMAS:
Saturday?
KOJO NANTAMBU:
Saturday, February sixth. By the name of Herb Butler. We told him, "Look, Mr. Herbert, we're not doing anything to the church. We're up here to protect the church." He said, "Damn it, let the white folks blow it up. We got insurance on it."
LARRY THOMAS:
What would cause him to say something like that?
KOJO NANTAMBU:
A stupid nigger, that's what.
LARRY THOMAS:
How old was the man?
KOJO NANTAMBU:
Mr. Herbert was about fifty years old at that time, I imagine. At that time, he had been a good friend of my father's, but after that he wasn't no more.
LARRY THOMAS:
Was this Saturday morning, brother?
KOJO NANTAMBU:
He was standing right around the corner from y'all, man. Herbert Butler. [Other voices indistinguishable] . At the same time he was asking us to leave, some white folks came by and shot at the house, the one facing Seventh Street.
LARRY THOMAS:
What you're telling me is that there was constant firing Caucasians? Ever since when?
KOJO NANTAMBU:
Ever since that Thursday night.
LARRY THOMAS:
Ever since they got situated in the church?
KOJO NANTAMBU:
They started Thursday night, February fifth.
LARRY THOMAS:
What was Rose doing at this time?
KOJO NANTAMBU:
Rose who?
LARRY THOMAS:
The police.
KOJO NANTAMBU:
Nothing. They say they arrested some people that night--that's what the newspaper said. But I didn't see no evidence of it, and I don't remember no white folks going to jail.
LARRY THOMAS:
Y'all stayed in the church the whole while?
KOJO NANTAMBU:
The majority of the kids were in the church except the brethern who were outside pulling guard duty. We pulled guard duty in turn, in shifts. Those were the only people outside the church. People were sneaking back and forth every now and then and going home, you know, like a few kids. Everybody wanted to be there because of the boycott. That Friday night most of the people stayed in the church--Thursday night and Friday night.
LARRY THOMAS:
There was constant firing on the church?
KOJO NANTAMBU:
Yes, day-time and night-time. So the white men they fired at the church. We said that's why we're here, brother--to protect the church. And he said, "We don't need to be protected." So we left and went over to our headquarters, the BYBBC which I have spoken about before, on Eleventh Street by the old Community Hospital. At that time a lot of people had given up hope because being put out of the church... I'm trying to defend you and you done kicked me in the behind--what am I going to do? Like it killed a lot of brothers and sisters fear. So everybody went on home, I guess to get something to eat. At that time, Ben didn't have no where to stay because they didn't even want him to stay in the parish house. So I went to find a cot because at that time my wife and I only had a three-room apartment with one bedroom. I went to get a cot so he could stay with us that night. By the time I came back, the rest of the board of trustees had met at the church--in fact, my grandfather was one of the members of the board of trustees--and they decided to let the students back in. By that time, everybody had gone home, so they only had about twelve or thirteen students up there. When I got back, most of the students--we had about nine or ten people on the outside guarding the church, and everybody else was on the inside. They called everybody in to eat because a lot of them hadn't gone home. At that time, we heard a whole lot of children screaming, so we ran out the house, and here come all these little children running down the street screaming, " white people, white people." And I myself personally counted twenty-six cars and I don't know how many passed before we got out there. But we counted twenty-six carloads of white folks go up Sixth Street from Castle Street direction, go up Sixth Street towards Market. So that's when we put the guard back on. They were saying there was a whole lot of people out there that night, but we only had about nine guards that night. We had this brother named Jerome, and a fat boy on the corner of Seventh and Nun. We had brother Steve Mitchell and this brother named Mutt at the back of the church. Myself and this brother named Bill was on Sixth and Nun. And this brother named Richard McCoy was in the middle of the block. Myself and Bill was in the middle of the block and Richard McCoy was on the corner with binoculars. My brother was there, but I can't remember where he was--my brother, . Also a brother named William Boykin was with me
LARRY THOMAS:
Robert ?
KOJO NANTAMBU:
Robert's . At the time before I took a post on Sixth Street, me and William was walking ... we took a post on the churchyard. We were the only ones on the churchyard--that's how I know there wasn't nothing but a few people there.