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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with John Harris, September 5, 2002. Interview R-0185. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

The enduring effects of the long history of subjugation of African Americans

Martin Luther King challenged the Ku Klux Klan and the ties between white supremacy and law enforcement, Harris remembers. He reflects on the long history of the subjugation of Africans and African Americans in the United States, and its enduring effects.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with John Harris, September 5, 2002. Interview R-0185. 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

KIERAN TAYLOR:
Okay, it was part of that. Were you driving the day the Klan shot the Greensboro protesters?
JOHN HARRIS:
Driving a cab?
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Yeah.
JOHN HARRIS:
No. I was running a business up on Gorrell Street. It was on a Saturday morning, was it a Saturday? I think it was. I had just come in, and they said they had a shooting down in the Grove. Well, that wasn't nothing, that wasn't news to have a shooting in the Grove, but the plot thickened, and I found out it was the Klan, and they had, not only a shooting, some wounded and killing as well. That really was news. Yeah, that was rather shocking. It was shocking reality.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
I've seen the, that film footage. It was unbelievable.
JOHN HARRIS:
Yeah, and it had to have been planned, and it was typical of, I guess, Klan operation. They've always done what they wanted to do. That's an example of it. They weren't used to resistance, and I guess that's what has happened in the modern times with the Ku Klux Klan is they met with resistance. I think that's part of, and they had the law on their side. That's why they were so powerful. This is what Martin Luther King did. He attacked these unethical laws. They were just doing what came natural to them. What they had been doing all, that's what they had been taught as children I can imagine. That's all they've ever seen was, and it was ugly, and it was wrong, but nobody had challenged it. So that's what happened. It was, I guess, and it took, it took a Martin Luther King and an attitude like he possessed to make the changes. It wasn't really, I don't call it a black-white thing. It was a black-white thing because of the way people thought, but it was a human rights thing. It's not, you just don't treat human beings like animals. It goes back, it goes back to the 1600s when they first started bringing, robbing, abducting Africans off of African soil and bringing them, or putting them on ships and bringing them over here. That's the ugly part about it. It's just, it's the worst thing that ever happened to human kind. They talk about the Holocaust. It was bad. Hitler did it. But we, there was some Hitlers before him because we suffered. I think blacks, slavery is the worse thing that ever happened in human history, worst thing. It just didn't, and it took we suffered for three hundred years, and it's going to take another thousand years to really make it, get it where it's supposed to be. Things that are happening now, they're evolving, but it's not, it's still just going to take time for it to really just go away and say I can't remember. But it's just one of those things that's just going to take time.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Do you remember Dr. King speaking at Bennett College in 1958?
JOHN HARRIS:
I remember Dr. King speaking. I knew he was there. I wasn't into, I was trying to make a living. But I didn't, no, I talked about we talked about Boss Webster. I saw Martin Luther King in Boss Webster's place. He had been to Danville, and I think they'd had some demonstrations over there, and they had come to Greensboro. They had come in Boss's to get some sandwiches. Somebody said that's him. That's him.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Wow. So he came in for a bologna and crackers.
JOHN HARRIS:
Yeah, one of Boss's famous bologna sandwiches. But he, that's what I remember.