Tragedy unites community
In this excerpt, after a brief reminiscence about his senior prom, Norwood returns to the subject of James Cates, the boy who died at the hands of a white supremacist gang. Cates's funeral brought blacks and whites together.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Raney Norwood, January 9, 2001. Interview K-0556. 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
BG: Were there other things that you can remember that stand out in your mind?
RN: My senior prom. That’s when blacks and whites really got together on this night. We had this soldier come in from Fort Bragg to hang a big parachute in the gym so it could be decorated and stuff. Blacks and whites, we met that night outside of the building, did our little drinking, spiked up the punch bowl. All of a sudden, this white friend and I decided to tell us to cut the string to hold the parachute up. This other white friend ( ) a little smarter than the rest. He talked, he told what would happen, people would die, suffocate under this parachute. I remember we came so close, black and white, agreeing on cutting it, because the other guy that was so smart, we thought about throwing him under the parachute, too. ( ). We sit around and talk about it now, what could have happened. A lot of people could have got hurt. As I said, we were not out to hurt people. We were out doing crazy things and--. A few people did get hurt, but it was never our intention to go out and hurt people.
BG: Is there anything else that we haven’t covered that you’d like to talk about, Raney?
RN: I’d like to go back and dwell on the death of James Cates, the one I told you that got killed by The Stormtroopers. The first time in my life, seeing the black community come together. I still can remember the funeral at St. Joseph’s Church. The crowd was so huge, people were standing all outside. The ground was completely filled. It was the biggest funeral as of yet I ever seen. Also, it made people get closer. We had the firebomb issue. We had the riding issue. But it seemed like blacks and whites got a little bit close.
BG: So whites came to the service as well?
RN: Oh, yes. Whites at the service, whites when we were marching. When we held a meeting at the center, they were there. ( ), I met him. We met. A good friend of mine. We almost was in Greensboro when the CWP Five got killed by the Klan out there. We almost was there. I was late. Things like that still stand out. I’m hoping that it get better. We got the Martin Luther King celebration coming up. I began to see the crowd getting larger, began to find more mix into that. But that’s it for me.